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The Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

January 17, 2018

Rheumatoid arthritis, also called RA, is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation, leaving many with joint pain and stiffness. At the Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin, we specialize in treating the joint complications of rheumatoid arthritis to restore range of motion and improve quality of life. Today, we'll focus on some of the common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. If you are experiencing any painful symptoms, you are encouraged to contact our Austin, TX office to learn more about your treatment options.

person holding their knee

Joint Pain

Joint pain is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. When RA is active, the joints become swollen from excess fluid within the joints and a thickening of the tissues lining the joints. This inflammation stretches the tissues around the joints, often resulting in pain. Some people only experience joint pain while the condition is active, while others may experience joint pain at all times from the damage caused by previous flare-ups.

Swollen Joints

Joint swelling is one of the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Joint swelling may range from mild to severe. For some, swelling may make it difficult to move the affected joints. The joints within the fingers are frequently affected by swelling and can make it difficult to do daily tasks, like button a shirt or write.

Tender Joints

In addition to joint swelling and pain, some people may develop joint tenderness. Tenderness can develop due to irritation of the nerves around the joints caused by inflammation of the joint tissues. When joint tenderness is present, even a light touch can cause pain. For some, this can make it difficult to get comfortable throughout the day and when trying to sleep.

Joint Stiffness

Joint stiffness is another common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. For most, the joints are stiffest in the morning. The duration of stiffness may be used to estimate the severity of inflammation.

Tissue Redness Around the Joints

The skin may become red over joints that are inflamed during RA flare-ups. Inflammation causes the capillaries of the skin to dilate, which in turn causes the skin to turn red.

Joint Warmth

Joint inflammation can cause the skin around the joints to feel warm. Joint warmth is a common indication of an active rheumatoid arthritis flare-up and may occur with or without skin redness or visible swelling.


Fatigue is another common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Fatigue can be caused by RA itself or it can be from a combination of issues associated with this condition. Joint pain and tenderness can make it difficult to get restful sleep, which in turn can lead to fatigue. In other cases, medications used to control rheumatoid arthritis can cause fatigue.

Other Possible Symptoms

Although rheumatoid arthritis largely affects the joints, it can affect other parts of the body.

  • Rheumatoid nodules: Hard lumps of tissue that may be as small as a pea or as large as a golf ball, may develop over bony areas under the skin and on some organs, such as the lungs
  • Skin rashes and ulcers: Although rare, skin rashes and ulcers can develop with rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes rashes develop as a side effect of certain medications and not from the condition itself.

Discover Your Treatment Options

If you suffer from joint pain or other issues caused by rheumatoid arthritis, treatment from our orthopaedic specialists can help. Contact our staff today to schedule a consultation.