Symptoms and Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/19/2021

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 signs and symptoms like

  • 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 and signs 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.

What Are the Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The best outcomes are with treatments begun early in the disease; medications are recommended by the severity and length of time you have had RA. Medical treatments may include the following with examples:

RA surgery is used to help improve or restore joint function and reduce pain. The procedures include the following:

  • Synovectomy: removal of inflamed joint lining
  • Tendon repairs
  • Fusion of joint: stabilize or realign joints
  • Total joint replacement: insert of a prosthetic joint

Depending on your condition, your doctors may recommend physical and/or occupational therapy.

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