9 Early Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis You Could Be Missing

Anju Mobin - Writer for Trim Down Club
By Anju Mobin
Nevena Radulović - Editor for Trim Down Club
Edited by Nevena Radulović

Updated January 10, 2023.

Close-up of a woman holding her wrist that's colored in red to signify a painful area

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition characterized by chronic inflammation in joints. It starts slowly and affects the joints of fingers, wrists, and feet.

Symptoms of RA flare up at times, alternating with periods of remission. When the climate turns cold and chilly, as in early mornings or the winter season, arthritis pain tends to increase.

As this is a progressively degenerative disease with no known cure as of yet, it's important to identify early warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis and get proper treatment.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder where your immune system attacks the cells lining your joints, causing inflammation and resulting in stiff, swollen, and painful joints.

When left untreated, bones and cartilage in the affected areas get severely damaged, which can lead to deformities—firm lumps, known as rheumatoid nodules, develop on or near these joints.

Untreated rheumatoid arthritis can lead to other complications such as carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation spreading to other areas of organs such heart and lungs, and an increased risk of a heart attack. So, it's essential to be able to recognize the early signs of rheumatoid arthritis, and below you can see what some of these are.

» Soothing joint pain: learn how to reduce arthritis pain in the winter

1. You Have Joint Pains

While some of the early warning signals of RA can be too subtle for you to notice, joint pain is a loud and clear warning.

The inflammation in the affected joint will cause its lining to thicken, and extra joint fluid will be produced in reaction to the inflammation. The combination of these factors adds pressure to the capsule surrounding the joint, irritating nerve endings and causing you to experience joint pain.

However, joint pain is a symptom of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, so make sure to seek medical attention for the right treatment.

» How dangerous is osteoarthritis? See if it can lead to crippling and immobility

2. Some Joints Feel Tender

Tenderness in your hand and feet joints may be an early sign of RA. You may have seen some people with RA walk on their heels and avoid touching their toes down—this is due to the soreness in the joints at the base of the toes.

Try pressing the joint at the base of your finger or in the middle of a finger, and if it feels tender, it may be an early warning sign of RA.

3. Your Joints Get Stiff

Before the symptoms become evident, you may notice some stiffness in certain joints, even if it's only in a finger or two. This may last for some days before disappearing and reappearing after a while.

Some people experience an overall feeling of stiffness in their body, especially when they’ve been lying down or sitting still for some time. A common complaint among RA patients is morning stiffness when they wake up and try to get up from bed.

4. Some Parts of Your Body Are Swollen

The inflammation and the increased production of joint fluid can cause your joints to swell up. In the beginning, the swelling isn't very noticeable, but as the RA progresses, it becomes more apparent.

5. You Get Tired More Easily

One of the very first symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be fatigue. People with RA may feel tired, lethargic, and depressed without even realizing why. This is probably your body’s response to the inflammation in your joints.

Fatigue can affect everyday activities and productivity at work, impacting even your sex drive and relationships.

6. There's Redness on Parts of Your Body

If you have any skin discoloration of the joints in your hands and feet, this can be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.

The inflammation in RA can cause your skin to turn red in the affected areas. Because of the inflammation, the blood vessels in the region widen and more blood rushes there as part of the immune system response, causing redness on these parts of your body.

7. Your Joints Feel Warm

Joint warmth is one of the earliest signs of RA. Even before the swelling and redness appear, your joints may feel warm to the touch. If this is something you notice often, consider getting medical advice on how to proceed.

8. You Experience Mild Fevers

The RA inflammation may even slightly raise your overall body temperature as an immune system response. Before any other noticeable effects on the joints, slight fever and fatigue can be early signs of RA that most people miss.

9. Your Range of Motion Is Decreased

Even in the beginning stages of rheumatoid arthritis, there's some decrease in your range of motion. It may start with just fingers or the wrist.

You may have some trouble with bending your wrist back and forth. As the RA progresses, more joints and ligaments get affected and it gets difficult to bend or straighten them. However, you can somewhat improve your range of motion with effective treatment options such as systemic enzyme therapy.

» Does systemic enzyme therapy work for arthritis? Find out here

Pay Attention to Early RA Signs for Easier Treatment

Don’t dismiss early morning stiff joints as a natural part of aging. Joint tenderness or pain, swelling, redness, and a decrease in our range of movements can all be early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

By paying attention to these small warning signs, you can start preventive measures at the earliest. There are many natural remedies that offer pain relief for arthritis and slow its progress.

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