Do You Show These Early Warning Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Woman with hand pain

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects your entire body. In addition to causing inflammation, which leads to stiff and painful joints, rheumatoid arthritis can manifest in many other ways throughout your body. Look for these six early warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis.


The most common yet subtle early warning sign of rheumatoid arthritis is fatigue. Fatigue often comes on earlier than any other rheumatoid arthritis symptom and can be quite debilitating. If you’re feeling less energetic than usual or that your normal amount of rest isn’t enough, pay close attention to how the rest of your body is feeling. If you are experiencing any more of the following warning signs, talk to your doctor.

Flu-Like Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means that the body attacks itself and causes a number of problems in many areas of the body. While catching a cold or the flu is relatively common—especially in the winter—symptoms should subside in a few weeks.

If you notice that your flu-like symptoms are not improving or responding to any typical cold or flu treatments, it may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis. Talk to your doctor about how long you’ve been experiencing these symptoms, what you’ve done to get rid of them, and if you’re experiencing any other abnormal symptoms.

Joint Pain or Swelling

With repetitive tasks such as typing, writing, sewing, or construction, it’s common to experience joint pain or swelling. However, if you notice that your joint pain or swelling seems to come from nowhere and doesn’t go away, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.

Loss of Range of Motion

You know your body and what is within reach. So if you notice that you’re not able to reach high shelves like you used to or tie your shoes with as much ease as is normal for you, you may be experiencing a loss of range of motion. Most people notice a loss of range of motion in the hips and shoulders first, but other joints—such as knees, ankles, fingers, toes, and elbows—can be affected as well. Take note of where you are experiencing the most stiffness and talk to your doctor.

Stiff Joints in the Morning

Everyone experiences slight muscle or joint stiffness in the morning. For most, it usually subsides after a few minutes of movement or stretching. However, if your joints are more stiff than usual in the morning or remain stiff for more than an hour, it may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.

Walking on Golf Balls

Even in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, people often report feeling as if they are walking on golf balls. This sensation is caused by swelling in the joints of the foot, particularly in the ball of the foot, which bears a lot of your body weight.

By understanding the early warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis, you have the power to intervene early. Talk to your doctor about which of these warning signs you’re experiencing and develop an action plan to test for and combat rheumatoid arthritis.


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