20 Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Mirror | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

20 Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Mirror

Some physical signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis (UPDATED 2016)

If you’re interested in reading more on RA symptoms, check out these
All 54 (& growing) articles on RAW about RA symptoms
My 8/2014 list of all my RA symptoms to date
20 signs of rheumatoid arthritis pMaybe seeing signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the mirror is less significant than other problems, but it still matters. An RA diagnosis leads to big changes in our lives. And there are also some changes to the person in the mirror. I hope not many of these signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis are a concern for you, but here is a list of what I have learned firsthand or from other people with rheumatoid disease (PRD).

List of obvious signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

  1. Weight gain from medication.
  2. Rheumatoid nodules on hands, elbows, or other RA joints.
  3. Extremely dry hands from washing so frequently.
  4. Weight gain or muscle loss from lack of exercise.
  5. Hair thinning due to medication.
  6. Shorter or simpler hairstyle because of RA hands, shoulders, wrists, or elbows.
  7. Rounded face due to taking prednisone.
  8. Joints which are swollen or misaligned.
  9. Fingers which are twisted or deformed.
  10. Rashes or acne caused by medication.
  11. No more high heels. Shoes that are as comfortable as possible.
  12. Less use of cosmetics due to RA hand or wrist disability.
  13. Altered gait due to RA hips or knees.
  14. No manicure:  sharp fingernails which cannot be filed due to RA hand disability.
  15. All over dry skin because it’s too painful to apply lotion due to hand pain.
  16. Use of braces or canes.
  17. Loss of height from osteoporosis or disc flattening.
  18. More easy to manage clothing with fewer buttons, etc.
  19. Loud noises from joints.
  20. Pale complexion due to anemia and lack of sun exposure due to sun sensitivity from meds.

Bonus 3 more signs of RA

  1. Dirty hair or body in need of a shower that’s just too difficult
  2. Easily bruised skin from vasculitis or long-term prednisone use.
  3. Frequent use of braces, wraps, or splints on any joint.

What signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis have you seen?

I couldn’t think of any more this morning. Maybe you have some suggestions…

RA Warrior avatar makeover

My daughter and I spent hours and hours working on a makeover for my warrior avatar with a photoshop program.  I like her sharper weapon. My four year old says her skin looks smoother and her earrings are pretty. I thought it was so funny because the real me could sure use the same treatment.

Personal note: As I update this in 2016 and add to the list, it’s fun to read the replies that have come in over the years! Roo is now 10 years old. And my daughter is working on learning to do much bigger research than helping me fix websites – helping immune mediated diseases like rheumatoid disease (RD). If possible, I’m even more dedicated to being a truth-telling warrior. And I still love to do Photoshop.

Recommended reading:

Kelly O'Neill

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked about 12 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over fourteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

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109 thoughts on “20 Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Mirror

  • September 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm
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    You could have Sjogren’s Syndrome, another autoimmune disease. While dry eyes and dry mouth are classic Sjogren’s symptoms, it may also cause dental problems (tooth decay, gingivitis, cavities, etc.) due to the lack of moisture in the mouth. I take Evoxac for Sjogren’s, and it helps the dry mouth a lot. I haven’t had dental problems yet, but my dentist is aware I have Sjogren’s and keeps a close watch on it. Of course, brushing twice a day (or more) and flossing helps with the potential dental problems, but I know it’s hard to do sometimes. Good luck!

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  • September 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm
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    You hit the nail on the head, again! So many of these signs apply, it is scary! Thanks!!

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  • September 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm
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    Is there anything than can be done about hair loss? I’m only 29 and I am having a really hard time coping with losing my hair. This disease is so ugly. I am really glad I found this site because I no longer feel alone in my fight.

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    • September 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm
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      I know… I’m going through it too right now – sometimes it’s caused by side effects or a deficiency – either way vitamin supplementation might help. It’s something to bring up with your doctors and keep asking if something else can be done. We need to be tested for deficiencies and of course methotrexate can make you require extra folic acid. Some people swear by biotin – there are supplements and shampoos.

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  • September 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm
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    I don’t wear jewelry anymore…not even my wedding band because my hands and wrists are so swollen it is so uncomfortable. Luckily my husband is one who gets it. I have no deformities in my hands that anyone would notice and to be honest sometimes I wish I did then maybe people would believe me that I am in pain. :-}

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  • September 14, 2011 at 2:45 pm
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    I really don’t know that old woman that lives in my mirrors..lol

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  • September 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm
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    My mom thinks I am related to “farmer Brown” or his wife…overall pants or denim dresses so that nothing binds. I also have fibromyalgia so when it flares the pain caused by a waistband hitting an active node is agony. But what gets me the most is people who just don’t get it….even when I look like I’m not in pain I am. For some of those that pooh-pooh the problems I live with every day I wish they could “walk in our shoes” for even 1 hour. And I’m “blessed” with vitaligo as well so it’s always fun to have people do a double take when they see my hands – I always look like I’m wearing white gloves….and yes to those people who ask….its EVERYWHERE not just my hands!

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  • December 28, 2011 at 12:00 am
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    Prednisone hot flashes!?! I thought it was menopause (which I am peri-menopausal) I’m 46 and was having an occasional “flash” before the pred, but now I wake up drenched!

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  • January 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm
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    Thank you for all the posts! I was feeling like the lone ranger today have a little pity party for myself. I’ve lamented the loss of long hair, long nails, wearing rings, wearing heels. Been to the derm about the big black circles under my eyes (nothing he can fix)…I’m slowly losing full function on a joint at a time it seems. Can’t carry things on the left side or open things with the right hand.

    I joked to a friend that it felt like parts of me were just getting lobbed off, like Monty Python “Life of Brian.” “Merely a flesh wound…(hop, hop, hop)”

    Thank you for telling your stories. I don’t feel so alone with it.

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  • October 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm
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    hairier legs, because its so hard to hold a razor. ugly toes, because clipping, and/or painting them is only a dream. frown lines from being in pain.

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  • May 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm
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    I’m sitting at my desk running my hands through my hair and it’s coming out -dropping like fall leaves. It’s been shedding but this is nuts. On 10 mg of MTX and 20 Prednisone. Has anyone noticed that the meds cause hair not to style properly either? Mine has a weird texture to it. Big sigh………

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  • January 24, 2015 at 12:26 am
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    i’m adding the following to your list: No longer able to care for small children! I once operatedy in home day care. I’ve also taught school for 18 years. These days, when I see a new baby or young child, my heart swells. I ask to hold the baby if I’m having a good enough day. Within a couple of minutes I find myself handing the child back to the mom or dad. I can remember cuddling and rocking my babies for hours, but that was years ago.

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  • January 17, 2016 at 6:40 pm
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    I actually lost weight, a lot of weight.

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  • January 17, 2016 at 7:06 pm
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    I think this is accurate and too damned depressing. I can honestly say I have NEVER had a dirty body or head of hair nor do I ignore when my finger and toe nails need attention. I have an applicator for putting lotion on where I cannot reach and I guess you would call me vain, because I have a manicure and pedicure every three weeks. I can and do work through the pain-every minute of every day. I hate my thinning hair, cringe when a teenage zit appears. At 74, acne is not too vogue. I wear comfortable shoes and easy on, easy off clothing that is decent looking. Maybe addressing what one can do for oneself to rally against this shitty disease would be more helpful than reiterating what it does to you. I do not take anti depressives, marijuana or drink. I am NOT defined by RA and if I can rally, anyone can.

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  • January 17, 2016 at 8:48 pm
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    Depression and isolation

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  • January 17, 2016 at 10:09 pm
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    Gingivitis CAN be a symptom of RA- not just because brushing or flossing can be difficult but also because it is INFLAMMATION of the gums! I notice my gums bleed easily for about 3 days after my methotrexate injection- then not at all- the medication causes a temprary increase in inflammation all over my body. I pay very close attention to my teeth and gums and go to the dentist every 4-6 months for cleaning.

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  • January 17, 2016 at 10:41 pm
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    I have noticed my eyes are dull… and a general haggard tired looking face regardless of how much rest I get.

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  • January 18, 2016 at 12:37 am
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    I have RA, Hoshimotos thyroiditis, and psoriasis so I’m blessed with autoimmune diseases. I’ve been on Enbrel and methotrexate IM keeping the RA under control for the last 9 years and done very well. My hair has started falling out at pretty rapid rate. I’m wanting to blame the methotrexate. Any experience or suggestion from anyone else with this issue?

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  • January 18, 2016 at 12:05 pm
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    Hi all, have to be quick before the fingers, wrists and elbows start contracting…
    Diagnosed with RA since 2000. Have taken al natural remedies, most tablets, injections and infusions prescribed but one called Xeljanz. Does anyone take this newbie and what are the side effects? Thanks.

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  • January 19, 2016 at 5:46 pm
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    Red spots/moles on body due to methx .
    Mood swings due to Steroids.
    Sleep pattern destroyed due to stress/pain/flare

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  • February 11, 2016 at 1:52 pm
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    Hello from the outside or inside, I look in the mirror and it’s just not me anymore. IT cosmetic makes bye bye undereye, with trial and error you can hide the darkness under eye. EVERYTHING IS SO TRUE..I’VE HEARD IT ALL. EVERY DAY IS A STRUGGLE. Sometimes I wonder if all this agony is worth it or not. I am a fighter and WILL NOT GIVE UP. SO AS BAD AS I FEEL I STILL KEEP TRYING TO COPE! As I no all of you do too.My prayers are for all WHO SUFFER from this nasty disease.

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  • February 20, 2016 at 4:39 pm
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    Isn’t it nice to know we aren’t all alone? I’m 61 and was diagnosed 2.5 years ago. My RA isn’t near as advanced as a lot of you just by reading what you wrote. I don’t have any deformity except in my fingers from my osteoarthritis. I do hurt all over my body, mostly feet/toes, fingers/hands/wrists, and recently in my hips and knees. I do have red rashes all over and spent quite a bit of $s this month on a skin care regime and some tinted moisturizer. (it does seem to be helping) My skin is now so dry it soaks up lotion like a sponge. So I’ve started putting coconut oil on before I dry off from the shower and then pat dry. I know for some of you that would be too painful. My ankles swell if I’ve been on my feet too long. Just recently I finally got rid of a toe nail fungus that I had been fighting for 2 years. Even though I have pain in my fingers, I have kept using them just out of stubborness and the need to keep them limber. I knit, crochet (which is the hardest so don’t try that too often anymore), counted cross-stitch and my latest thing I want to learn is jewelry making. All of it keeps my fingers limber and my brain alert. A suggestion for those that are like me and continue to knit. . . . use bamboo needles, they actually feel good on the fingers and are not cold. I have brain fog so bad I had to give up driving, I just could not focus on it any longer. I scared myself one day after it had happened a couple times just driving a couple miles home. Looked at the minivan next to me and it was a young mom with her children. When I got home I called the bank and told them to come get my car. I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt, or Heaven forbid, killed someone, because I would not quit driving. Gentle hugs and prayer for all of you.

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  • March 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm
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    All too familiar. Left out the eyebrows & eyelashes falling out. At 32 all I get is your too young to have the dark circles. You need to take care of your skin. When the doc says slow down, I have to remind them my boys only have a couple of months out of the year that ARENT ball season. You push through & try not to fall asleep at practice. Did stop sitting on the bleachers & started bring a comfortable chair the the boys are more than willing to carry as long as mom is at every game and practice.

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  • May 15, 2016 at 6:42 pm
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    Anyone else experiencing “cell phone” syndrome? It’s the predictable pain from texting and scrolling on a call phone. Before my RA was diagnosed, a primary care doctor misdiagnosed the pain in my hands as this syndrome. I also have my own personal pharmacy. Medications for the RA and medications for the side effects of RA medications. I also have pauper thin washcloths and towels so I can wash my body…

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  • January 30, 2017 at 7:25 pm
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    I have seen so many eye doctors and GPs and recently a dermatologist. I’ve been told allergies and $$$ in testing that is negative. My current NP thinks it is autoimmune and I think she is right. It can disappear and appear in another location. Horrible itching. Anyway, comforting to know that others have this problem. Thanks for the posts! It really helps!

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  • February 28, 2017 at 7:38 pm
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    I’ve had those hives around my eyes. They’ll become so swollen, I look like “The Beast”…from “Beauty and the Beast. The rash will also be on my face and front of my neck. Anyway, the dermatologist said not to use a cortisone based cream around eyes.

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  • March 11, 2017 at 2:09 pm
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    My obgyn says the prednisone interferes with estrogen so gave me a prempro prescription. My fogginess and night sweats went away. I had been on a low level of estrogen prior to that, but it was clearly no longer working. Now I just have other RA symptoms.

    Reply
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