What Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Feel Like?

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  • About Rheumatoid Arthritis

    About Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. This affects the lining along the small joints in the body and commonly causes pain in body parts like the fingers, wrists, knees, ankles, and feet. 

    While the hands and feet are commonly impacted, larger joints such as the elbows and knees may be affected. Fever, loss of appetite, and fatigue are a few of the early signs of the disease.

    Read more to learn about the different symptoms and how they feel.

  • Joint Pain

    Joint Pain

    Following the early symptoms, RA can progress to minor joint pain, stiffness, and tenderness in inflamed joints. The stiffness may last for hours and be more acute in the morning or after sitting for long periods of time.

    The joint pain might make it difficult to complete simple daily tasks like picking up an object or using a kitchen knife.

  • Symmetrical


    RA usually appears gradually, affecting small joints first and then spreading to larger joints. In most cases, the pain is symmetric. It occurs on both sides of the body. For example, both wrists, both hands, and/or both knees will feel pain.

    Symmetric pain in multiple joints makes RA different from other types of the arthritis.

  • Other Symptoms

    Other Symptoms

    Joint pain is noted as the most common symptom of RA, but it’s not the only one. You may feel chest pain when taking a breath. You also may experience a burning, tingling, or numbing sensation in your hands and feet. Your eyes may be dry, itchy, or burn with discharge.

  • Organs Affected

    Organs Affected

    RA is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can sometimes affect other parts of the body besides joints. It can cause problems for organs like the skin, blood vessels, eyes, heart, kidneys, and lungs.

    Symptoms may develop over a number of years, or they may occur in a quick progression. On the other hand, some patients may have rheumatoid arthritis for a short amount of time and then enter a remission where they have no symptoms.

  • RA Over Time

    RA Over Time

    RA is a chronic condition that, if left untreated, could possibly result in deformed and knotted-looking joints. Small lumps, known as rheumatoid nodules, can develop under the skin at pressure points or other areas like the back of the scalp.

    Rheumatoid nodules can range in size, from as small as a pea to as large as a walnut. They generally don’t hurt.

  • Preparing for a Doctor’s Visit

    Preparing for a Doctor’s Visit

    Call your doctor to schedule an appointment if you feel continued discomfort or swelling in your joints.

    When your doctor examines you for RA, they’ll look at whether you have any stiffness, swelling, tenderness, or pain when moving. They’ll also note if you have difficulty moving in a wide range of motions.

  • Treatment


    There’s currently no cure for RA, but a medley of treatments can help control symptoms and limit joints from damage. Medications can help reduce the pain or decrease the inflammation of joints.

    Occupational and physical therapists can help you learn exercises to maintain flexibility in your joints. They can also show you ways to make daily tasks easier and protect your joints.

    Follow your recommended treatment plan to improve your symptoms and your quality of life.