What Is the First Symptom of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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Officially Sanctioned RA: Do Rheumatoid Arthritis patients have the symptoms they’re expected to have?

feet in water

From what I’ve read in several books, the first symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis are supposed to be in the hands (so that RA can be diagnosed). I’ve mentioned to you before that hands are considered central to diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. (Check these out: Typical RA, Why Is Diagnosing RA So Difficult, How is RA Diagnosed, parts 1 and 2.) Many researchers and doctors consider RA to be primarily a disease of the hands and wrists.

Is that entirely accurate?

However, I have spent just as much time reading the accounts of actual patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Many RA’ers do not experience symptoms in the hands early in the progression of their disease. In some cases, this is why diagnosis is difficult: those RA patients are not following the pattern which is set forth by those who officially authorize and certify the definition of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Here is a partial list of some first symptoms that have been told directly to me by actual people being treated for Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Eye inflammation / uveitis / iritis

Feet pain and / or swelling

Back pain (spine)

Pleurisy (lungs)

Heart (heart disease or inflammation of lining)

Ankles (pain and damage)





Intestinal inflammation

The Unlikely Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptom: Feet

I am one of those lucky folks whose Rheumatoid Arthritis struck my feet before my hands. The pain began at age 15. The occasional swelling got worse over the years.

Early in 2006, there was intense swelling and pain which caused deformity literally overnight. One morning, I awoke with a toe that had moved about 45 degrees. I could not walk on it. Within 24 hours, the other foot did the same thing. At least they matched.

Within a few days, Rheumatoid Arthritis attacked several joints on both feet so that I could not wear shoes. It felt as if I were standing on rocks all of the time. It took more than a couple of doctors to realize that this was actually Rheumatoid Arthritis. In fact, I was not diagnosed until it had spread to several other joints. Incidentally, that did not include the hands at that point.

Since I did not realize the seriousness of my fate, I never took pictures of those unbelievably deformed feet. Fortunately for me, the swelling is gone and I can walk short distances now with only moderate pain. However, I have a completely different pair of feet. RA feet.

Please leave your comment below to tell us about your first symptom of RA. (Or you can answer for someone you know who has RA.)

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 at 9:43 am and is filed under Reality Check. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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