What to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis? 

 March 8, 2024

By  Linda Rook


Rheumatoid arthritis or RA for short, is an autoimmune disease that attacks your healthy immune system by mistake. It is not known why it does this but it damages the synovium that protects the joints. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is more common, and is wears away the joints overtime. 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease, this means it can affect various organs and joints, as well as attacking both sides of the body.

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing RA, as prompt treatment can help alleviate symptoms, prevent joint damage, and improve long-term outcomes.

If you experience any symptoms in this blog, you should see your doctor or healthcare professional, they will give you an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment early.

I shall explain what is rheumatoid arthritis, 10 signs of RA, and what are the four stages of rheumatoid arthritis are.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder, the main symptom is inflammation of the joints. The cause of this disease is unknown but it seems to attack your immune system, which protects against external threats.  It attacks your healthy tissues by mistake, mainly targeting the synovium, the synovium is the lining of the membranes that surround the joints.

Resulting in a persistent joint inflammation, and leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness. The symptoms can be a slow development of inflammation which causes damage to the affected joints, resulting in deformities and impairment.

Whereas  osteoarthritis is the common type of arthritis and attacks the cartilage of the joint.  Known as the elderly arthritis as it wears away the joints slowly, but it can also develop when you have a fall or injury.  The symptoms are similar as RA where you have pain and inflammation of the joint affected.

The main features of rheumatoid arthritis include:

1.    Autoimmune Factor: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks your immune system, especially your synovium.  The job of your immune system is to keep out foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses, but instead it starts targeting the body's healthy tissues.

2.    Symmetrical Joint Connection: RA affects joints on both sides of the body, such as both wrists, knees, or hands.

3.    Systemic: While the main effect is on the joints, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect your organs such as your heart or lungs. People with RA may experience fatigue, fever, and weight loss.

shoulder pain

4.    Chronic Inflammation: Inflammation in the synovium can lead to the release of enzymes that can damage cartilage and bone within the joint.

The synovium is a fluid like substance that is a complex mixture of protein, this reduces the friction between the joint surface. The chronic inflammation can result in joint deformities and, if left untreated, can lead to disability.

5.    Variable Development: The progression of rheumatoid arthritis can vary from person to person. Some people may experience periods of flare-ups with increased symptoms, but others may have more stable condition. Early diagnosis and effective treatment are crucial in managing the condition and preventing joint damage.

10 Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The signs of rheumatoid arthritis have many different types of symptoms it can cause inflammation, pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected joints. However, the symptoms are not the same for everyone.

However, here are 10 common signs and symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis:

1.    Joint Pain and Swelling: Pain and swelling can be on both sides of the body for example both wrists, knees, or hands, and is the early symptoms.

2.    Morning Stiffness: You may feel stiff first thing in the morning when you have not moved for a period, this stiffness can last for several hours.

3.    Fatigue: A general feeling of fatigue and tiredness, could be other symptoms even though you have not been activity.

4.    Warmth and Redness:  When you have an Inflammation or a flare up, your joints may feel warm to the touch and appear red or swollen.

5.    Joint Deformities: Over a period, untreated RA can lead to joint deformities, because the inflammation causes damage to the cartilage.

Lady fatigued and tired on her laptop.
Loosing Weight

6.    Reduced Range of Motion: Joint inflammation can also decrease the range of motion, making it difficult to do easy tasks around the home.

7.    Fever: Some people may experience occasional fevers, especially during flare-ups.

8.    Numbness and Tingling:  RA can sometimes cause nerve density or inflammation, leading to sensations of numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.

9.    Rheumatoid Nodules: These nodules are firm lumps that develop under the skin, often near affected joints. They are less common but specific features of the disease.

10.  Weight Loss: Even though you may not be planning to lose weight, you could automatically lose weight, this may be due to the overall inflammation condition that you are living with 24/7.

You should consult with your doctor if you suspect any of the conditions in this blog or you suspect that you have developed rheumatoid arthritis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the condition and prevent further joint damage.

The 4 Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The development of rheumatoid arthritis has four stages, which are the following:

Stage 1: Early Rheumatoid Arthritis (Mild).

  • In stage one, the mild stage, you may not have any apparent symptoms.
  • Apart from joint pain, swelling, and stiffness that may be present, but these symptoms are usually not severe.
  • An x-rays may not show any joint damage.    
  •   Blood tests may reveal an elevated levels of certain markers.
Blood Test
Arthritis pain in shoulder

Stage 2: Moderate Rheumatoid Arthritis.

•     The second stage, at this second stage the symptoms become more noticeable, and you may have some difficulty in doing daily activities.

•     The joint inflammation and pain may increase, also the swelling and stiffness, could become significant, and your movement can become limited.

•     You may have stiff joints when you wake up after not moving for a while, you may also feel fatigued.

•     The joints affected first are often the smaller joints, such as the hands and feet.

•     X-rays may show evidence of joint damage and possible joint deformities.

Stage 3: Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis.

•     In stage three, there is an increase of joint damage, deformities, and functional impairment.

•     The symptoms in this stage may become increasingly pronounced, affecting more joints in the body.

•     Severe pain, swelling, and stiffness may become more.

•     You may have an increased difficulty in performing daily activities.

•     X-rays and other imaging may reveal extensive joint damage and erosion.

X-ray of an arthritic knee
Deformative due to psoriatic arthritis.

Stage 4: End-Stage Rheumatoid Arthritis.

•     This last stage is the most advanced stage, with extensive joint damage, deformities, and loss of function.

•     Many joints affected, this can include your larger joints like the knee and shoulders.

•     Joint deformities may be severe, which can lead to disability.

•     Ongoing inflammation can lead to complications, such as your organs may become affected such as the heart and lungs.


Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that have symptoms of inflammation, stiffness, swelling and more in the joints.

Early diagnosis is crucial for an early treatment. The treatment can include disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics, and many more options, that can control and alleviate the symptoms, by slowing down joint damage. 

There are some remedies that can help you, by keeping active, such as walking, swimming and have a balanced diet. Regular monitoring and adjustments to the treatment plan may be necessary due to the changes of your conditions.

If you suspect you have rheumatoid arthritis or are experiencing joint pain and inflammation, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.

I hope this article has helped you. Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on new blogs. Also, if you need to know anything about arthritis, please go to my contact page and leave a message, and I will get back to you.

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I am not a medical professional, and this blog is for information only. If you have any worries, you should consult your doctor.

I hope this blog has helped.

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Linda Rook

Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 

Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.

Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.

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