The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are joint pain, swelling and stiffness. It may also cause more general symptoms, and inflammation in other parts of the body.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis often develop gradually over several weeks, but some cases can progress quickly over a number of days.
The symptoms vary from person to person. They can come and go, and may change over time. Youmay occasionally experience flares when your condition deteriorates and your symptoms become more severe.
Rheumatoid arthritis mainly affects the joints. It can cause problems in any joint in the body, although the small joints in the hands and feet are often the first to be affected.
Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects the joints symmetrically (both sides of the body at the same time and to the same extent), but this isn't always the case.
The main symptoms affecting the joints are outlined below.
The Joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritisis usually a throbbing andaching pain. It is often worse in the mornings and after a period of inactivity.
Joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis can feel stiff. For example, if your hands are affected, you may not be able to fully bend your fingers or form a fist.
Like joint pain, the stiffnessis oftenmore severe in the morning or after a period of inactivity. Morning stiffness associated with another type of arthritis called osteoarthritis usually wears off within 30 minutes of getting up, but rheumatoid arthritis morning stiffness oftenlasts longer than this.
The lining ofjoints affected by rheumatoid arthritis become inflamed, which can cause the joints to swell, and become hot and tender to touch.
In some people, firm swellings called rheumatoid nodules can also develop under the skin around affected joints.
As well as problems affecting the joints, some people with rheumatoid arthritis experience a range of more general symptoms, such as:
The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can also sometimes cause problems affecting other areas of the body, such as:
Read about the complications of rheumatoid arthritis .
Read about rheumatoid arthritis, a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis mainly affects the joints, although it can cause problems in other parts of the body too.
Read about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means it's caused by the bodys immune system attacking itself
Read about diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. It can be difficult to diagnose because many conditions cause joint stiffness and inflammation
Read about treating rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment can help reduce inflammation in the joints, relieve pain and prevent or slow joint damage.
Read about living with rheumatoid arthritis. It can be life-changing and you may need long-term treatment to control your symptoms and reduce joint damage.
Read about complications of rheumatoid arthritis. Having rheumatoid arthritis can put you at a higher risk of developing other conditions
Paul Casimir has been living with arthritis for half his life, but he doesnt let it stop him doing the things he enjoys.
Jonathan Gledhill was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when he was 27. He explains how arthritis affects his life.