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Subtle Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

What were your first symptoms?

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RheuRheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a common form of arthritis which affects 1.5 million Americans, with about three times as many women as men affected. There are some early and subtle signs of this painful condition to look out for. Many symptoms may appear to indicate another condition altogether. Preparation and early treatment may be key to reducing the painful symptoms of full-blown RA. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of subtle signs to look out for!

  • Redness on hand joints. If you start to notice abnormal redness on or near some of your hand joints, this may be a sign of Rheumatoid Arthritis development. There may be extra heat around the joints which causes the surface of the skin to appear red. If you can rule out skin conditions and other ailments, it may be best to consult a rheumatologist for more information and a possible diagnosis of RA.
  • Fatigue. Fatigue is a common symptom in all stages of RA but may seem a bit out of place if you have not gotten an official diagnosis. Sleep can sometimes be disrupted in those with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and this can cause fatigue during waking hours. In addition, the body is focused on healing the affected joints and therefore diverts its resources to that task, instead of on the external things you need to get done.
  • Joint Tenderness. It may be difficult to recognize this one and easy to dismiss it. Tenderness in the joints is not quite as bad as the swelling and severe pain most people associate with arthritis. Even if you don’t have that joint pain, but you can feel your joints a bit more, it may be time to get a checkup and explain the tenderness to your doctor.


  • Tingling or numbness in the hands. When you have to swell caused by RA, it can put pressure on the nerves in the arms and reduce feeling in the hands and wrists. Carpal tunnel syndrome is another common ailment that could signal rheumatoid arthritis and is also associated with this numb or tingling feeling. If this is your only RA symptom, you may leave your doctor’s office with only a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. It is very important to look for all the subtle signs of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Eye problems. While issues with the eyes are not necessarily subtle, they wouldn’t necessarily signal rheumatoid arthritis to the majority of the population. Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder which can cause dryness in the eyes and other areas due to swelling which prevents glands from producing moisture. This is unlikely to be the only symptom of RA, and as scary as this can be, it is important to tell your doctor about any other subtle symptoms that you are having.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a painful condition which can be successfully managed. It is important to keep a watchful eye out for any early or subtle signs of RA to start the management process as early as possible. Listen to your body and be aware of what it is trying to tell you. Your doctor will be a great resource, so let him or she knows about all the symptoms you’ve been experiencing to get a more accurate diagnosis quickly.

What were your first symptoms?

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