RA101: Symptoms of RA

To diagnose rheumatoid arthritis (RA), doctors may look for the following signs, symptoms, and lab results.1

Common signs and symptoms of RA

Symptoms Abnormal lab results
  • Painful and/or swollen joints (often found in pairs, e.g., both knees)1,2
  • Stiff joints in the morning that gets better later in the day1,2
  • Fatigue (tiredness that feels like your body ran out of power)1,2
  • Presence of rheumatoid factor (RF)  and anti-citrullinated peptide antibody (ACPA) in the blood1,2
  • Elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood1,2
  • Increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)1,2

Because RA is a chronic condition, knowing when and how frequently these symptoms occur is helpful for doctors to make a proper diagnosis.

If you or a loved one has RA, a diary can be surprisingly helpful tool for doctors to keep track of them.

Things to record in a diary should include:

  • Which joints are affected
  • When symptoms are at their worst
  • What other medications are they taking
  • Other lifestyle details (e.g., smoking and drinking habits)

The last bit is not to judge people for smoking or drinking.

Smoking raises the risk of cancer, and so do some RA treatments. Similarly, drinking may also interfere with some treatments, making them less effective or more prone to induce side effects.

To learn more:


What to expect?


References: 1. Smolen JS, et al. Lancet 2016. Published online: May 3, 2016. 2. UpToDate. Patient information: Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and diagnosis (beyond the basics). Available at http://www.uptodate.com. Accessed on May 05, 2016.

Last updated: September 17, 2016.
Photo adapted from original by Katy, used under license.

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