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Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects many joints in the body. Symptoms vary from mild to severe. They may also start quickly or slowly. There may be times when symptoms are worse. These are called flare-ups. There may also be times when there are no symptoms.

Key signs of RA are:

  • Pain and stiffness that is worse in the morning and after inactivity
  • Red, swollen, tender, warm joints
  • Joints that do not look as they should

RA may also cause problems in other parts of the body, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, and heart.


  • Aletaha D, Smolen JS. Diagnosis and Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Review. JAMA. 2018 Oct 2;320(13);1360-1372.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis. January 27, 2020.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/joint-disorders/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra. Updated December 2018. Accessed January 27, 2020.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Rheumatic_Disease/default.asp. Updated September 2019. Accessed January 27, 2020.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/rheumatoid-arthritis-ra. Updated May 22, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2020.


  • Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.