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892 Responses to “What Is the First Symptom of Rheumatoid Arthritis?”

    1. Alanda Lindsay says:

      I was diagnosed 9 years ago thanks to a local mom who had just been diagnosed and it did start in my feet. I am only able to wear crocs because my toes hurt when crushed in regular shoes. I would love to wear some nice shoes. Unfortunately I am on Disability income in Canada and cannot afford to even eat properly. My teeth started going, so I had some pulled. I now have two sets of teeth which line up for chewing, so eating a healthy diet is not only unaffordable to me, but I can’t eat the food. I had a back pay cheque when I first got my disability pension and I ate well for 3 months and I never felt better. I worked out every morning and was able to even go on my tip toes briefly. The money ran out and now I am back to being mostly disfunctional. I have decided to be a nutritionist. I will retrain. I am upgrading right now and finding the fatigue challenging. I need money for the food so I can think and make money.
      That is the current circle. Oh well, trudging along….

    2. Barbara says:

      I’m being evaluated for RA. My grandmother (dad’s mom) had it, as does his sister/my aunt, who is homebound with RA. My dad had debilitating arthritis with three back surgeries, and though he was never diagnosed with RA, a rheumatologist checked him out annually to see if he had developed it. I’m not sure if there’s some sort of borderline condition? I wish he was still alive so I could ask about that.

      After complaining about joint pain to my primary care physician for the past year, I finally had enough. While I’m overweight, and I can’t say I was surprised to feel some pain in my knees and hips, I was surprised that my left elbow developed intermittent pain that makes it difficult to move it sometimes. My right ring finger has been stiff and painful on and off for the past year. When it’s really bad, my fingers on the left hand also hurt. At the moment, I can only make a light fist. It takes a lot of effort and some pain to touch the pads of my fingers to my palm. A month or so ago, my right knee started to really hurt, especially when bent.

      My feet have hurt for the past year or so, too. When my girlfriend asked what it felt like, the best description I could give is that it feels like being barefoot on a rocky beach. I was stunned when others here described it exactly the same. I’ve had plantar fasciitis in both feet before, and I know what that feels like, and it’s not like this — though like plantar fasciitis, it hurts most when getting out of bed or when I’ve been sitting a while.

      The knees were the last straw, and I told my doctor that I wanted to know what was going on. I mentioned my family history and he sent me for ESR, ANA and RF factor tests. ANA and RF were negative, but my ESR was 52 (expected range for my age is 0-20). Today, he said we’d test again in three weeks and if it’s still high, he’ll refer me to a rheumatologist.

      I’m not sure if this is RA or not. From what I can tell, it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle figuring it out. What I do know from my family is that the damage it can cause is very real, and if something’s going on, I need to know now before it gets worse.

      I’m so thankful for this site and all the posters on this thread. I’m curious and anxious to see what happens.

    3. Kathy says:

      I wonder what my first symptom was. When I was 12 years-old, I would have to soak my swollen, stiff, achy hands in warm water in the mornings before school. My mom took me to the doctor who said that there was nothing wrong with me. My knees were also painful growing up and could never run but I was active with horses and other sports. I was much better through my twenties and up to age 41. I trained with weights and jogged on the treadmill 4-5 days per week. I noticed that I was usually winded and dropped the weight bar on myself because an arm just quit working. Over the next year, various problems like fatigue, tendinitis in elbow(s), shoulder pain(s). Needed 3-4 pillows to support various body parts. Then I got a ‘virus’. I felt awful, tired achy for a couple of days. After a few days of this malaise, I awoke in excruciating pain throughout my legs and arms. I could barely walk. I had to call my son to take me to the doctor… I was never again okay. However, I was not diagnosed with RD until 2/2016. I spent years in pain (not as bad as some stories that I have read), even a year of not being able to move my right thumb, but no diagnoses. I was atypical. Even though my fingers were turning, etc. I was told that I was depressed and I suffer with anxiety! Of course, I’m upset and not happy. I’m in constant pain, trying to not get fired from work and cannot get help from medical professionals. My only good days were those after a shot to clear a severe ‘eye allergy’, Dry eyes, rashes, Anyway, when does this process really start?

    4. Wendy smith says:

      Mine started in the heels of both feet felt like a screen door slamed on them. This was in 2006 many trials and tribulations since then. Living it a day at a time.

    5. Dane says:

      I am a female and will soon be 50 years old. The past 3 weeks I’ve had an inflammed, painful finger. I have been diagnosed with Hashimotos (16+ years ago) and Vasculitis (4 years ago). I assumed for the first week the swelling and pain in my finger was Vasculitis.

      I’ve been on Plaquinel for 4 years.

      It hadn’t gone away after a week and a half but was getting worse (spreading to other finger joints) and getting more and more painful including up in to my wrist and elbow. BTW, the original finger had gone wonky overnight pointing off to the left rather than straight. Eventually it was also kinked (curling) in to itself.

      So off to emergency I go thinking they could send me for a biopsy for Vasculitis. The Emerg Dr. said it was an infection and sent me off with a script for antibiotics.

      Fast forward 7 days and I’m back at Emerg…finger is the same. New Dr. looks at it and says, it’s RA. Gave me a script for Prednisone (40mg/day for 5 days) and told me to see my Family Dr. for Xrays to confirm RA.

      Well, I sat on the fence yesterday about taking the Prednisone. I found your awesome website and have learned a lot about the drug. By the evening last night the joint pain was in my other elbow and shoulder so I took the first dose of Prednisone.

      2.5 hours later my finger was uncurled and the pain was almost gone! Wow. Never have I taken a medication and had such fast response. My finger still points off to the side but at least I can now open my hand and not have it curled up being totally obvious.

      So my first symptom (according to Drs.) would be my hand….

      BUT: I’ve lost my appetite for the last 2 months and dropped 8+ lbs. For the last 6 months I’ve had pain in my finger joints and mild swelling off and on.

      Since my late teens I would have painful joints. Specialists always said my joints are just hyper mobile. As recently as 2 years ago…hyper mobile joints no evidence on xray.

      I see my Family Dr. in 4 days and will be sent for xray at the walk-in clinic in the hospital. Referral to my Rheumy will no doubt follow.

      I really hope I only have to do these 5 days on Prednisone. I have more than my share of anxiety as it is. I am scared of more.

    6. Nanette Diel says:

      The first symptom of RA was a tiny red bump between my knuckles. I thought I had a thorn in it. I ask my PA to see if he could remove it. Upon looking at it he ask if I had ever been told I had RA. I had not. After a positive RA test I was sent to an RA doctor who concluded that I did indeed have the disease. I have very few problems with it. I was told it was found early and treatment was begun. I now use Humera Inj. with improved test at this time.

    7. Brenda Lawrence says:

      My RA started with my left shoulder and elbow. I would wake up in pain and could hardly move my shoulder and elbow. Later my feet/ankles were hit and I didn’t understand what was going on. My feet were so painful that I almost had to crawl to get to the bathroom when I got out of bed in them mornings. Then came my fingers on my left hand, my thumb to be specific. Now thumbs all fingers. I have what I call a “knot” on my thumb now, and “knots” starting on other fingers, but left thumb is the worst. Used to be able to get a ring on my thumb, but not anymore because it won’t pass over the “knot”. I must have some kind of “knots” under my toes on the balls of my feet because I swear it feels like I am walking on stones or have something stuck under certain toes. But when I look, there isn’t anything stuck. Knees came next, along with the back and everywhere else. It sucks having RA, but to add to my “joy”, I also have Lupus and Fibro.

    8. Robin says:

      I’ve had issues with things tearing. Like in my shoulders and two or 3 times, my calf muscle tore off of my achilles tendon. I kept thinking that I had some sort of connective tissue disorder. I travel a lot with work and I specifically remember one day we had been on the road for about 5 hours and when I got out of the car, my hips were killing me. I think the torn muschles and tendons were my first warning. It took years to finally get a diagnosis. Had a dr that was looking at all the signs in the labwork, but for whatever reason, wouldn’t diagnose it. Went to another dr, she looked at my chart and within about 2 minutes, she said “you have RA.” My hips, feet, shoulders, and elbows seem to be what gives me the most problems. Constantly nauseous, fatigued, and just not feeling well. RA SUCKS!

    9. Sonya says:

      Hi I’ve just scrolled down a few comment I’ve been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis about 4 years. It started off in my wrist and fingers. But was not given anything for it. Because it Wasn’t bad enough but lately I’ve been getting it in my toes they start off numb then the pain sets in. And it feels like I’m walks with stones in my shoes I’m wondering is it arthritis or something else getting a bit worried 😓

    10. Katie says:

      Mine was inflammation in the eyes and then my right ankle and shortly followed by left ankle. Then within a few months my feet and hands. I always referred to it like walking on rocks as well. My fingers epscially the first 2 on both hands are always painful.

    11. Kirk says:

      I have not been officially diagnosed with RA as of yet, but everyone so far is leaning towards it as my issue. My first symptom was a year ago and it was my elbows. I thought it was mouse elbow and thought nothing of it. Just In the last month I am no longer able to move my hands for several hours in the morning. I don’t think I have slept this last week except when my body finally gives out. Just a few minutes into lying down my hands and arms are stiff, numbness will shoot through my arms and hands, I shake, cry in my sleep when I finally get some. My only mild relieve is to not stop moving. If I stop I feel I will die, one more thing to do, just don’t stop… . That’s my first.

    12. Dee Channel says:

      This site has opened my eyes. I am astounded by the lack of pertinent new data available…even a main arthritis website is loaded with old information so I thank you for your efforts to educate patients & DOCTORS!
      I don’t have a clue when my RA started, I noticed foot pain, only my left, for a few months & then my right knee started swelling & it didn’t go away but my insurance didn’t move with me so it was 3 mos, before I was able to see a primary doc. I was amazingly lucky because he immediately suspected RA or Lyme disease. RA was the winner & the pain was in an ever-increasing # of areas including my hands & wrists but that most certainly was not the starting point. While my primary was on top of things, the rheumatologist is seriously old school :(
      I hope in the near future I can locate one who is constantly searching for the latest info instead of relying on what he/she learned 10 or 20 or 30 yrs ago in med school!

    13. Kris says:

      It attacked my feet first and started when I was 16.

    14. Siyabonga Motau says:

      Whenever I go down the stairs my hand stops working, I don’t know what causes this, please help.

    15. LOL!! I can’t type at this point t night/ I will have to fil yu in later:(

      I’m sorry…
      Cyndy

    16. Ardell Simon says:

      Mine started with Uveitis (had it 2x), than left shoulder (diagnosed as rotator cuff). than right shoulder ( same diagnosis) moved to ankles and wrists, finally diagnosed with RD/RA after few years.

    17. Brenda Jones says:

      Wow..I have read almost all of these comments,And all sounds so fimiliar I to have RA. I tell you there are so many days where I wish that all I could do is just stay in bed all day because my pain is so bad that I just cannot stand it. I have had my right thumb fused,my index finger, middle finger, my left hand index finger, middle finger, all fused because the pain was just way to much to bare, now if I could just fuse my whole body,well now that would be awesome.hee hee .. I do not know about some of you, but I know that so many people get tired of hearing me always say that this hurts, that hurts, I just feel like Dog Poo,today. This with my right leg, knee, calf of my leg,just started hurting me really bad about 2 weeks ago, when I lay down to go to sleep my right leg, knee hurts so so bad and then on and off my toes go numb, I’m like what the hell now what’s going on, so I typed in through Google my stomach and It brought me to this page,And I’m so happy that it did because there are so many other people in the same boat as myself,so I feel like that you guys understand exactly what I’m going through. Is anybody taking any of the Arthritis med that are available ??? I have heard so many bad side effects so I have chosen not to take any of them, yes I do have to take pain pills,daily but hey we have gotta do what we gotta do.

    18. barbara says:

      I just was diagnosed with ra about 1 month ago. The doctor said I have severe RA. I have been suffering for about 2yrs or so. I kept getting worse then better then worse. I have nodules on my fingers and elbow is swollen with nodules. I was so tired and in so much pain I decided to go to doctor. I am on predisone now feel so much better. But still in pain in feet and hands, Does it ever stop all the way?

      • Barbara, I don’t know if it will ever stop all the way for you. I have never had disease activity go down at all – except for with steroids like prednisone. But I hear others who actually can get a “remission” or very low disease activity. So I hope that for you. If you already have nodules, then you likely have severe disease and it has been there a while. You need a very attentive dr who will listen closely to you and treat you as aggressively as possible.

    19. barbara says:

      Oh I forgot to mention my fingers are really bent and look awful.

    20. Victoria Brown says:

      Sounds like what I have except I have Lyme disease

    21. Mollie says:

      I think my first symptom was back and chest pain. My doctor at the time was convinced I didn’t have ra even though I told him my sister and niece had ra. A few years later, my left jaw and left arm hurt so badly I ended up in the emergency room. I thought I was having a heart attack. I wasn’t and the er dr was very puzzled. Another time my left shoulder was hurting and I went to my heart dr. Again, no heart problems.
      He was convinced I had torn my rotator cuff and advised me to get an MRI. I didn’t. Then my hands started hurting and I convinced the nurse practitioner to run tests. That’s when my suspicions were confirmed. So it can start anywhere.

    22. Christie says:

      My first symptom was unrelenting thoracic back pain with fever. It progressed very quickly & now my whole body is affected. My doctor was amazing & immediately tested for ra even though my 27 year old self had no clue what it was. That’s when I received my diagnosis. I also have thoracic levoscoliosis which is brutal by itself.

    23. Marla says:

      I have been seeing them for over a year. All my labs have come back negative, but I have had frozen shoulder in (L), bursitis and tendinitis in the (R) one. I now have pain in hands and feet worse at night. My feet are beginning to hurt during the day, as well. Ibuprofen takes the edge off during the day, but nothing helps the night time pain. I don’t have any nodules or joint deformities. Just feel lime I am walking on rocks, too!

    24. Deborah Kelly says:

      I “knew” I had RA for about five years before I sought care. My mother and sister already had RA so I knew what those swollen, achy joints and a sudden need for naps meant. I did not immediately go to a doctor because my sister spent years seeking a diagnosis. Eventually, I had a car accident in which my knuckles were slammed against the steering wheel. I went to my GP, showed him my hands, and told him I was pretty sure I had RA. He asked me if I was depressed. I insisted he complete RA testing. When the results came in, he arranged for me to see a rheumatologist the next day.

    25. Christine says:

      My only symptoms is a little puffy between the palm and the knuckles on the fingers, I asked my doctor when I had my physical exam. I have no pain or swollen joints. My doctor refered to a specialist. At the visit, the doctor examed all my joints and she said everything was normal. She send me home after took my blood. After blood test. The doctor said I have RA since my blood work is positive. I have one question, should I start the drug treatment even I have no pain yet?

    26. A Yvette Pilch says:

      My first symtoms of RA was to have Poly Myalgia. Terrible debilitating body pain. Blood test showed negative for PM. And additional tests positive for RA. I was put on high dosage of prednisone, then dosage reduced as pain came under control. When I get home from my family visit RA doctor will try other meds to get me off prednisone.My flare-ups tend to be varied. The worst one seems to be the ache across the back of my shoulder blades, shoulders, down my arms.Then of course the cough that goes with it.
      I also at times wake up at night with the shocks to different parts of the body. The other stuff too, bruising, fingers locking, tiredness, cramping in my legs.
      I have counted at least 5 of other listed unusual symtoms that I have as well.
      Thanks so much for having your site. At least I know I’m not a hypochondriac. That thought alone depressed me.
      One last word to end my whining, I’m enjoying my visit with family.

    27. the ‘only way’ you can or will get a correct RA diagnosis is to find a Rheumatologist. They can tell you very quickly by their RA specific bloodwork.
      I also found out I am immune system challenged and have been under the care of an excellent immunologist (Tampa, Florida) for a couple of years. RA itself causes our immune system numbers to drop…I now have to have weekly infusion to keep my numbers up where they belong and I still developed Whooping cough (of all things) last yr and was hospitalized for it

    28. Julie Greer says:

      Hello,
      For me, RA began in my shoulders. I woke up one morning and could not move my arm and shoulder 😞 I went to the emergency room and X-rays were done. They told me to see an orthopedic doctor because nothing was showing up on the X-ray. They said I had a torn rotator cuff. Needless to say, it was not a torn rotator cuff.
      But thinking back in time, I started having trouble with my feet first. I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. However, I now know that it was RA all along.
      I have just now been officially diagnosed with RA and will begin my fight.
      Prayers for all 💜

    29. Theresa Halverson says:

      I am going to make an appt to see doctor. So much of what I am reading sounds like what I am going through. 1 year ago my shoulder acted up and was told I had frozen shoulder. I had steroid injections and physical therapy which helped, but it is coming back and in the other shoulder now too. I have been experiencing pain in feet and have been waking up to a big to locked up and arch of same foot hurting. I also have a thumb and index finger locked up in morning too. All on same side. It’s getting worse. Before the locking up of toe and fingers, my heels of both feet ached so bad I would try to squeeze them as tightly as I could which lesson ed the pain. My feet and figures swell up in this heat and humidity by days end. So reading comments here has lead me to believe that I have to be persistent in having Dr’s get down to what is going on with me. I found this forum by searching my symptoms which I was trying to figure out why my toe and fingers are progressively wosening and locking up on me in mornings.

    30. Irina says:

      Hi, my name is Irina and I like your site and think it helps people to understand ra and not feel very lonely.
      I was diagnosed ra but it is not really confirmed yet as I understood my rheumatologists. Doctors never explain very well what they think.
      I have a question. Is there anybody who would not have any stiffness or visibly swollen joints and stil have ra? Two ra doctors think that I have ra because I have some kind of not strong pain bilaterally in many joints like wrists, ankles, some fingers. It is not real pain but some deep down feelings of hurting. I do not know how really to discribe it. Those feelings of deep pain change all the time. One day it is fingers, one day ankles then wrists or little bit knees, hips too occasionally. Feets too used to hurt but now better. Wrists lately started more persistent every day or at night too. No stiffness or pain in the morning. What I had was hurting my feet when I get up but just for one or two minutes. I also have muscles pain along my legs at the back.
      Doctors prescribed me plaquenil and think that it is just very beginning of ra. I take it but I am not sure it really helps. If I did not take it maybe I would feel worse. I do not know but my symptoms do not go away.
      Of course I have my blood work all perfect for everything possible. Please if anyone has something similar tell me. All is gradually getting worse but I do not all the typical signs of ra.

    31. Tony Kitchell says:

      My first symptom extreme pain in rt wrist then left it felt like I wanted to cut them off. Then rt ankle then left. After that it was knees, elbows, hips and shoulders.

    32. Tony Kitchell says:

      I forgot say I was diagnosed in May 2015

    33. Diana says:

      Hello, I saw the last post in 2015 it’s 2017 I hope some one is there, I am 51 y/o most of my life very active, bicycle, dance, gym, walking, all over the sudden a year ago I was diagnosed with sciatica, I tried chiro, ortho, therapies and it get worse, at the same time the left shoulder, then the right hip and the right shoulder, now when I sleep my hands swollen I feel my feet numb all my body hurts, my joins and my dr sent me to see a Rheumatologist he says nothing is wrong, ANA, Lupus and all those test come back negative, he told me I am developing arthritics, I am going to see a neurologist in 3 more weeks,because my insurance dont let me see one sooner, I am getting very depress…. :-(

    34. Melissa says:

      I’ve got other health issues asthma, ibs and had back surgery for herniated disc. So it’s hard to say what was specifically from RA. It took 6 years for me to get a diagnosis after seeing several Doctors, a Neurologist and finally the Rheumatologist. My first issues were weakness,stiffness and just feel drained and occasional tremors. I had back pain off and on since the surgery. Now I have constant pain. I may have pain, swelling, tingling and stiffness in wrist, hands, ankles, knees and/or feet. I’ve had pain in my ribcage that made me think I was having heart issues but I have a healthy heart, I read that can be common. Everyday is different I’m glad for good days when I can actually walk around a bit and get something done.

    35. Jennifer C says:

      I have not “officially” been diagnosed with RA. My bloodwork keeps coming back normal. I have been diagnosed with OA, fibromyalgia, cervical and lumbar stenosis with myelopathy. I have an appt this month with a Rheumatologist (which I had to make on my own without my doctors help). I have a 15 yr old son who was diagnosed with Juvenile RA a year ago. I have pain in every joint and sound like a box of rice crispies when I move. I am so tired of being sick and tired. I am hoping the Rheumatologist will be able to help and provide some answers. I have always been a very active person and always dealt with the aches and pains since I was in junior high. It has been a rough year. I was also diagnosed with Lyme Disease this year. I am just ready for help and answers.

    36. Barbara Miller says:

      My pain started in my neck about 10 years ago, and slowly worked its way through every joint in my body, the bottoms of my feet even hurt. I explain this at every doctor visit, and they just sit there and type on their computer and say it could be the weather. I am getting so depressed from having to lay on the couch all day on the weekends, and not being able to do my housework . I have been diagnosed with OA, but I feel that it’s much more than that, I just feel ill all the time . I am still able to work full-time but not very well and I don’t know how long that’s going to last , I can barely type anymore my finger is so swollen and all they do is give me cream for it, any help would be greatly appreciated .

    37. Tony says:

      My first symptom was wrists then ankles then fingers,feet, knees, hips, elbows, and now neck.

    38. Joanna says:

      Is this site maintained anymore? All the posts I see are from several years ago. I’ve been so sick all summer and was just diagnosed with RA, but I’m having trouble believing the diagnosis and am too scared to start the meds. I really wish I had someone to talk to who has been there. 😕 This illness is ruining my life and I don’t know what to believe.

      • Dear Joanna,
        Here is another page that might help you: http://rawarrior.com/do-i-have-rheumatoid-arthritis/
        For more to talk to who live with RD, I’d also go to my facebook group here: http://facebook.com/arthritis warrior

        On most websites if you click on the logo, you will go to the “front” page or the home page. That usually shows the most recent posts. Here, those are a couple months old. But there are many more recent replies to comments. And if you click on the links to my book, you’ll see why I’ve been too busy to write new blog posts the past couple of months (while I fight my own RD). :)

    39. Jessica Pulido says:

      I haven’t been diagnosed with R.A. yet. But my kidneys are failing and my renal doc said it was due to NSAIDS. I didn’t believe that and started to doi research. I. My research it pointed to an auto immune disease. I went to a new doctor and told her I needed a full blood pa so done to see if I had lupus or something. She thought I was crazy! How could a simpleton know anything about the medical world being I’m uneducated . Well I got myg results last week and guess what! I was right my R.A factor was way above normal. My hands doint hurt. But my wrists will swell. My feet hurt and my legs are in so much pain. I get bad muscle cramps in my legs to the point my half A are solid as a rock. I am also getting them around my rib cage and they will take me to the ground in tears. I am currently awaiting on my referral to go through to see the r.a. specialist.

      • Dear Jessica, my new book addresses this. The disease does not start in the hands and they are not always the first symptom. I am working to change that misconception so people can be diagnosed earlier. I hope you don’t have it, but either way – I hope the doc is helpful. Good luck.

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