Rheumatoid Arthritis Signs and Symptoms | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Rheumatoid Arthritis Signs and Symptoms

Learning about rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms

Rheumatoid Arthritis signs and symptoms

Last week, I asked followers of my Facebook Page to share about first rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms before diagnosis. This is a question we’ve discussed several times over the years, and readers have taught me so much when I ask it. You have led me to dig deeper in reading research and participating in some as well.

With RA Warrior’s 10th birthday tomorrow, let’s look at some of the things you taught me about rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms.

Confusion about rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms

What is the reason many people with rheumatoid disease have written stories like the ones shown in the screenshot below? Why don’t many doctors know? Their textbooks or mentors gave them some bad information about rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms. Let’s look at some common ideas.

Doctors are often taught these myths about rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms

  1. The disease starts in the hands.
  2. Joints are always swollen or red if they are affected.
  3. The spine (or jaw or ribs…) are not affected.
  4. RA rarely affects organs.
  5. Treatments work the same or work well on most people.
  6. Blood tests are the best indicator of disease activity.
  7. Patients exaggerate about the disease.

Basic facts on rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms

From our community, I’ve also learned some basic facts on what to actually expect:

  1. Almost any symptom can come first, joint or non-joint.
  2. Family history is a good clue.
  3. Suspect RA at any age. 40 is a peak diagnosis age, but most already had symptoms for years.
  4. The disease is usually symmetrical, but not always synchronized.
  5. Blood tests can be positive early or lag behind.
  6. Various scans are usually normal early in the disease except highly sensitive ones.
  7. Visible symptoms can be very fickle, and change in moments.

Living with rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms

Finally, here are a few things I’ve learned the hard way—by living through it.

  1. You can have a milder form of the disease for decades and not realize it.
  2. Treatments can slow progression, even if they don’t improve symptoms.
  3. There’s almost always something that can help the pain, so keep trying.
  4. Deformity can happen overnight. Hence my t-shirts that say “I woke up like this.”
  5. People usually have no idea what we’re going through or how much we struggle.
  6. Even symptoms that seem hopeless can eventually improve at least somewhat.
  7. Ice works wonders to reduce inflammation, but it takes a while and it’s not fun.



Why don’t many doctors know? Textbooks or mentors gave them some bad information on RA/RD signs & symptoms #rheum Click To Tweet

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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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6 thoughts on “Rheumatoid Arthritis Signs and Symptoms

  • May 16, 2019 at 9:56 am

    I am 68 years old, my hands are deforming and I hurt daily. I also started smoking after quitting 38 years ago. I know smoking does not help. Feel depressed and have trouble every day. Please share your insight! I stay to myself mostly and need some positive encouragement! Thank you.
    My email is hellasapple@gmail.com .

  • May 16, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    In 2009 I had femail surgery. The Dr. Didnt even check me before going home from the hospital. I knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t pin point the problem. Having surgery in the past I felt like if I could just get home I would feel better this wasn’t the case. It hit me from head to toe. My back all joints, I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk. When I went back to this Dr. for a check I ask what happen to me and why am I in this shape. He just replied “that I should just go to my regular Dr.” Well this I did and they sent me to an RA doctor. I have a lot of damage, my hand feet and ankles, neck and back. I take 2 shots a week mex and Enbrel. The doctors said it was a stress trigger that I was already under a lot of stress, owning my own business and kids and parents. Which at the time I was under a lot. Anyway I believe with the laser he damaged my back and I think while cutting out scar tissue with the laser he cut my gut just enough to position my system. I’ve had a stroke a couple of years after that. Anyway I’m doing better now I have to stay on the meds. In the last year they are just getting it under control. My blood work was off the charts. Finally it is in the normal range.
    Have you heard of this before?. And if it will help someone else I dont mind you sharing.
    Thank You,

  • May 16, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    I have learned many things as well. I now know that men can and do get RA. I have learned there is life after RA. I have learned that naps are precious and having them is an honor, an honor given to me by my wife of 42 years. Finally that everyone in a relationship where one person has RA, has RA. No relationship is immune we all get it.

  • January 30, 2020 at 1:58 am

    I believe I had it for years before diagnosed. Mine started with joint pain, but mainly the shear exhaustion. Then extreme stiffness. I also have Osteoarthritis bad all through my joints.

  • January 30, 2020 at 8:58 am

    I have had RA for three years now and I have to say I am shocked that the symptoms of RA and the name do not match the disease. The list of symptoms that the health community put out there only list a few of the symptoms of RA when there are all lot more symptoms not acknowledged. The name RA is a terrible name for the disease and it angers most of us with RA because it is not arthritis. The name and the list of symptoms needs to change ASAP. We all suffer terribly because of the name and the lack of the actually symptoms. RA is way more like Lupus yet no one would ever tell a Lupus patient, “oh you can get better with diet or it’s all in your head. There needs to be more research, the drugs for RA are terrible. Things need to change for RA patients, we don’t deserve to be treated the way we are treated by Doctor’s, friends and family and it all based on the name and the incorrect list of symptoms. It’s time for a change!


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