The 5 Earliest Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes the chronic inflammation of joints. While extreme cases of rheumatoid arthritis can have debilitating effects, it begins slowly with minor symptoms. These symptoms affect both sides of the body and increase in severity between weeks or months. Symptoms of the condition can vary from person to person and may not have a consistent pattern on a daily basis.

If you suspect you could be suffering from the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis, see some of the symptoms below:

Joint Stiffness

One of the earliest signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis that is very common is join stiffness. Many times, this will occur first thing in the morning with what people describe as “morning stiffness”. You may feel as though it takes longer for you to move your body freely after waking up. But joint stiffness can occur at any time during the day. Many people suffering from the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis find that their hands are the first joints to be affected.


Before anything else, someone suffering from the onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis may notice fatigue as their very first symptom. The type of drop of energy levels and general tiredness can be hard to shake with this type of underlying condition. This could vary day by day or week by week and have different levels of severity. Fatigue can be accompanied by feeling unwell or depressed.

Joint Pain

Along with the stiffness and fatigue, joint pain is also a very common symptom of Rheumatoid Arthritis. The stiffness in joints is followed by tenderness in the smaller joints (again, it begins in the hands many times) while at rest or during movement. This will affect both sides of the body equally and can have varying levels of severity and can change daily. In early RA, the most common areas affected are fingers or wrists, but you may also experience pain in your knees, ankles, feet or shoulders.

Minor Joint Swelling

RA is an autoimmune disease, so the condition tells the immune system to attack the synovium. The synovium is responsible for lining the joints. It produces a fluid that helps the joints move more smoothly throughout the day. When the immune system attacks the synovium, it often results in inflammation and swelling. Mild inflammation of the joints is typical early on with RA. Flare ups can last from a few days to weeks, but will increase longevity in time.

Numbness and Tingling 

Due to the swelling RA creates, it can have different outcomes for each person. Some people will experience the pain and stiffness and sometimes warmth in the joints, but others will have more problems because of it. When the joints swell, it has the  potential to press on nerves near the joints. This can cause numbness, tingling or a burning feeling in those areas (usually the hands.)

If you believe you could be suffering from the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis, contact your healthcare provider to have tests run.