Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis -- Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) mainly causes joint pain and swelling. It can also affect other parts of your body.

The symptoms can vary from person to person. They may also appear and disappear with time and treatment.

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Joints

You may have:

Although the condition can affect any joint, it’s especially likely in your:

It’s less common, but you can get rheumatoid arthritis in your neck, hips, and shoulders.

For many people with RA, their joints are stiff first thing in the morning, and then ease up after at least an hour of movement.

The condition usually affects more than one joint and mirrors both sides of the body. For instance, you might have it in both wrists.

Symptoms Away From the Joints

Will My Symptoms Change?

Everyone is different. Some people have mild RA. Others have severe cases with joint damage.

Many people with RA have symptoms on most days. Some days may be better than others.

It’s rarer, but some people only have symptoms from time to time. They may have months between these flares.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatments help to stop or slow the disease.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on January 30, 2019



Klippel, J. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases, 13th edition, Springer, 2008.

Firestein, G. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, W.B. Saunders Company, 2001.

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