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10 Serious RA Symptoms to Never Ignore

There's more than joint pain to watch out for.

5. Red, inflamed eyes

Blood vessels in the eyes are another common target of rheumatoid arthritis, especially among people with more serious forms of the disease. 

If the outer layer of your eye feels dry or irritated, eye drops can usually treat the problem, Mandell says.

However, sudden severe pain and redness of the eyes could mean deeper parts of the eye are affected. That’s a very serious complication, so see a doctor immediately if that happens, Mandell says.

6. Tummy troubles

If you take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen to treat your rheumatoid arthritis, you are at risk for stomach problems.

These drugs can cause stomach ulcers, which could in turn make the stomach bleed or form a hole in its wall.

When taking an NSAID, report any tummy pain, black or bloody bowel movements, or nausea to your doctor right away.

7. High fever and other signs of infection

Another problem from rheumatoid arthritis treatment is infection related to biologic drugs such as certolizumab (Cimzia), etanercept (Enbrel), adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), and golimumab (Simponi),

The most telling sign of an infection is high fever (greater than 101 or 102 degrees Fahrenheit), Bathon says. Others are an unexplained cough, or an area of the skin that is extremely hot, red, swollen, or more painful than usual.

This type of infection can spread very quickly and is usually tough to control, because rheumatoid arthritis patients have compromised immune systems to begin with. That gives them a lower tolerance for infection, Bathon says.

If you suspect an infection, see a doctor immediately, even if it means a trip to the ER, she says.


8. Feeling blah

Simply not feeling well could also signify infection. Specifically, symptoms like loss of energy, night sweats, sudden weight loss, unexplained fatigue, or a low-grade fever might mean it’s time to see your doctor and perhaps re-evaluate your treatment regimen. 

So don’t ignore your body when it’s telling you something isn’t right, Mandell says.

9. Bone fracture

A bone fracture in someone with rheumatoid arthritis may reveal underlying osteoporosis, especially among women.

Because of its inflammatory nature, rheumatoid arthritis can cause bone loss. On top of that, the risks of fracture can skyrocket if you’re taking prednisone, a common treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition to exercising and following a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, people with rheumatoid arthritis should consider having a bone density test to detect osteoporosis soon after their RA diagnosis.

10. Suddenly bruising easily

If you find you’re suddenly bruising very easily, you could be experiencing a complication from rheumatoid arthritis that lowers your blood platelet count, Mandell says.

That could either be because of your treatment, or due to the disease itself.

Be sure to see your doctor soon so you can get a blood platelet count, as well as other tests. When blood platelet counts are very low, you are at increased risk of bruising and may experience serious bleeding.

Reviewed on March 12, 2014

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