Rheumatoid arthritis: What are the initial signs?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition defined by chronic inflammation of the joints. The condition arises slowly with minimal symptoms that come and go, usually affecting both sides of the body and progresses over a span of weeks or months.

The indications tend to vary for each individual and might change from day to day. The episodes of the disease are known as flare-ups while the inactive periods are called as remissions.

What are the early symptoms?


The individual feels unusually tired before other symptoms become evident. Remember that fatigue might precede the start of other symptoms by weeks or months. It might come and go from week to week or day to day. It is often accompanied by a generalized feeling of being sick or even depression.

Morning stiffness

Rheumatoid arthritis

Low-grade fever might an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis, especially if accompanied by joint pain and swelling.

Rigidity or stiffness in the morning is often an initial sign of arthritis. If it lasts for a few minutes, it is an indication of the degenerative form. If it lasts for several hours, it is a sign of an inflammatory arthritis. There is also rigidity after an extended period of inactivity such as sitting or napping.

Stiffness of the joint

The stiffness in one or several smaller joints is an initial sign of rheumatoid arthritis. This can occur at any time of the day whether active or not. Generally, the rigidity starts in the hand joints. It arises steadily but might occur abruptly and involve several joints over 1-2 days.

Joint pain

The stiffness is often followed by pain or tenderness during movement or while at rest. This can affect both sides of the body equally. During the early phase of rheumatoid arthritis, the wrists and fingers are typically affected.

Minimal swelling of the joint

Mild inflammation of the joint is evident early which causes the joints to appear larger than normal. This can cause the joint to feel warm to the touch.

The flare-ups can last for a few days to weeks and this pattern is likely to increase over time.


Low-grade fever might an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis, especially if accompanied by joint pain and swelling.

Tingling and numbness

The inflamed tendons places pressure on the nerves. This results to tingling, numbness or burning sensation in the hands.

Diminished range of motion

The inflammation in the joints can result to unstable or deformed tendons and ligaments. As the condition progresses, the individual could not flex or straighten some joints. Even though the range of motion can also be disrupted by the discomfort, it is vital to stick with regular, gentle exercises.


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