Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects small and large joints. In some people, the condition can also affect the other body systems including skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. It is an autoimmune disorder. Both incidence and prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis is more common in females. It can present at any age but most commonly it affects the patients in the third to sixth decade. Symptoms develop slowly over weeks to months. The number of joint involvement is variable but almost always the process is eventually polyarticular involving more than four joints.
Joint pain and Swelling –Joint pain in rheumatoid arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joint. It can also occur if the joint has been damaged by previous inflammation of the joint. Along with joint pain, there will be swelling of joint because of inflammation of the synovium (joint lining) and accumulation of fluid in the joint. There is a lot of tenderness in the joint which is because of inflamed synovium. Typically joint involvement is symmetrical.
Red and Warm Joint- The affected joint becomes red because of the dilated blood vessels because of inflammation. Along with redness joint is warm.
Joint Stiffness – There is stiffness in the joint typically early in the morning. This is because of the inflamed joint. As the activity increases joint stiffness improves.
Loss of range of motion over affected joint – Because of joint pain and swelling over the joint, the range of motion is significantly reduced over the joints.
Polyarthritis- Rheumatoid arthritis affects many joints of the body. Commonly involved joints are small joints of hands, wrists, and ball of feet. Knee, elbow, hip, ankles and shoulders can also be involved.
Limping and loss of function – Due to the involvement of lower extremity joints rheumatoid arthritis can cause limping. If the involvement is severe that can lead to loss of function at that particular joint.
Joint deformity – Joint deformity can occur in rheumatoid arthritis because of persistent untreated inflammation in the joint.
Fever and anaemia – There can be a low-grade fever. Because of persistent inflammation anaemia is also present.
Eye Issues – There can be involvement of eyes in rheumatoid arthritis leading to redness and watering in the eyes.Occasionally there can be dryness in the eyes.
Breathing Issues – There can be involvement of lungs in long-standing rheumatoid arthritis leading to breathlessness on exertion.
Non Specific Issues – Non-specific symptoms like fatigue, malaise can also present. It can present as vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) causing digital infarcts along nailbeds.