Symptoms and Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/19/2019

Doctor's Notes on Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis (also termed RA) is a chronic joint disease that also potentially affects internal organs of the body. No matter what organ may be affected by RA, the joints are always affected and may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • stiffness,
  • inflammation (tender, red, and warm joints that can be swollen),
  • loss of joint range of motion,
  • limping
  • polyarthritis
  • symmetric
  • nodule formation (red bumps that are hard that are found near the joints) and
  • pain in the joints.
  • As the disease progresses, joint function decreases.

General symptoms usually come on gradually and may include

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are not known. However, most researchers consider abnormal activity of the body's immune system as major cause of this disease. However, risk factors considered by experts include

  • genetics,
  • hormones,
  • possible infections by bacteria and/or viruses
  • tobacco smoking,
  • silica exposure and 
  • gum disease as possible triggers for this disease.
  • It is theorized that altered levels of gut bacteria may also play a role in rheumatoid arthritis development.

These risk factors that occur in other organs can precede RA development.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.