Since rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition, it is characterized by the classic symptoms of inflammation. This includes pain, redness, increased heat, swelling, and stiffness. And like most things in arthritis, there are also some common joints where it usually occurs.
Pain is the common symptom. It is usually followed with other classic symptoms of arthritis such as stiffness that usually flares up in the morning and last longer than what you see in stiffness due to osteoarthritis, the most common arthritis type. Read also differences between RA and osteoarthritis in here!
The affected joint by RA can be almost similar to what happen in lupus that affects the joint. For more detailed information about inflammatory condition of lupus vs. RA – see this section!
And because RA is a systemic inflammatory arthritis, the inflammation of the disease could be widespread. In other words, it may cause other symptoms that have nothing to do with the involved joint. These may include:
- Small nodules (painless lumps). These are usually harmless, occur in about 1 in 4 cases, and typically found on the skin over the forearms and elbows.
- Anemia (lack of red blood cells or/and hemoglobin).
- Tissues that cover tendon can be similar to thin tissue called synovium around the joint. Synovium itself is the primarily object of where the inflammation of RA occurs. That’s why there is also a chance for inflammation to occur around tendons.
- Feeling unwell.
- Weight loss.
- Muscle pain and ache.
At advanced stage, the inflammation in RA could affect other organs, causing some life-threatening conditions if poorly-controlled. See more the complications in here!
And like cancer, each case of RA can be unique. The severity can vary, too. It doesn’t have a cure. However, it’s important to control the disease as well. Each flare poses the risk of joint damage or other complications.
Fortunately, there are now some treatments that can help make it go into remission for several months or even years. The earlier you take the treatment, the less joint damage or other complications are likely to occur.
Treatment options can vary, depending on the symptoms and severity of the disease. Generally, these include the use of DMARDs (disease-modifying medicines), steroids, biologic agent, and anti-inflammatory medicines.
In osteoarthritis, knee joint is the most common site where the disease occurs. But in RA, actually there is no specific joint attacked by the disease because it can affect any joint and can be systemic, too.
*Image credit to ADAM
However, there are some common joints of where RA usually occurs. These include small joints of wrist, fingers, thumbs, ankles, and knees. Less commonly, sometimes it affects hands, elbows, shoulders, or even neck.
Interestingly, it usually occurs on both sides of the joints (symmetrically). For example, if you have it in your left wrist, you are more likely to have it in the right wrist, too.
Overall, the affected joints can vary. While in a few cases, just a few joints are involved – sometimes many joints are affected!