Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms

Reviewed by Isabelle Amigues, MD

Because rheumatoid arthritis frequently tends to attack the joints, most of its symptoms are joint-related. However, while the joints are the most likely part of the body to be affected in RA, it is important to remember that the disease is a systemic disorder and can also affect many other organs in the body, manifesting in other symptoms as well. Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Joint pains
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Skin nodules (bumps under the skin)

When RA has been progressing for months or years, in addition to tender and swollen joints, there may also be joint deformities, as well as a restriction in the range of motion.

Extra-articular (non-joint related) manifestations of RA are less common but may require higher level of immunosuppression. Some of the extra-articular manifestations include:

  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Skin rash (skin nodules or a manifestation of vessel inflammation)
  • Eye inflammation
  • Heart inflammation
  • Cardiovascular disease

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