Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) most often affects multiple joints throughout the body and may involve the same joints on both sides of the body (example: right hand and left hand are both affected). The symptoms of RA vary from mild to severe or develop quickly or slowly over time depending on the person. Though RA is a chronic condition, symptoms usually flare up and subside intermittently. Some people have symptoms that get worse over time, while others have long periods without symptom flares.
Hallmark symptoms of RA include:
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Because inflammation of RA can affect many areas of the body it may also cause:
RA can affect other parts of the body, causing serious health complications. This is especially true if RA remains untreated. Complications of RA include:
Rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra. Updated August 2015. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Rheumatic_Disease/default.asp. Updated February 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115261/Rheumatoid-arthritis-RA. Updated September 30, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016.
Wasserman AM. Diagnosis and management of rheumatoid arthritis. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(11):1245-1252.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 10/16/2019