Joint pain can be an early symptom of many different diseases. In rheumatoid arthritis, symptoms often develop slowly over a period of weeks or months. Fatigue and stiffness are usually early symptoms. Weight loss and a low-grade fever can also occur.
Joint symptoms include:
- Painful, swollen, tender, stiff joints. The same joints on both sides of the body (symmetrical) are usually affected, especially the hands , wrists, elbows, feet , ankles, knees, or neck.
- Morning stiffness. Joint stiffness may develop after long periods of sleeping or sitting. It usually lasts at least 1 hour and often up to several hours.
- Bumps (nodules). Rheumatoid nodules ranging in size from a pea to a mothball develop in nearly one-third of people who have rheumatoid arthritis. Nodules usually form over pressure points in the body such as the elbows, knuckles, spine, and lower leg bones.
In addition to specific joint symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis can cause symptoms throughout the body (systemic). These include:
- A loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Mild fever.