Monday, July 28, 2008 verna whaley, Community Member, asks

Q: can you have ra without the joints swelling if you have all of the other symtoms

I have alot of the symtoms of RA but my joints are not really swollen. I have flu like symtoms and my joints hurt and are stiff for about 2 hours or more of a morning and wake during night hurting. I have also lost weight and generally feel ill.

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Answers (6)
AmyAria, Community Member
7/31/08 12:02pm

Short answer, YUP!  Yeah, I didn't and haven't had any swelling to speak of.  Did have "trigger finger" in both hands, but nothing ever visibly swelled up.  Oh, got one node that went away and hasn't returned.  Other than that, wow!  Your symptoms sound a lot like me and oh boy do I got RA!  Yeah, just a bunch of bouts of fever and malaise at the start.  Sore hands and morning stiffness and night aches.  Yeah, you don't have to have every symptom checked off the list.  Still, I'm no doc.  If you haven't yet, you should check in with your physician.  If it is RA you'll want to start doing something about it pronto.  This crud doesn't tend to get better on it's own. 

SherOnTheLake, Community Member
8/ 4/08 2:20am

So, Verna, I'm with you. I'm being told by family doc (he was almost apologetic when he phoned me with the results of my bloodwork) that it appears I have RA. I thought, really?

My hands or joints aren't excessively swollen, big knuckles, yes, but not hideously so.

How bad can this be? I had always assumed that was the chief complaint with people having rheumatoid arthitis.

Figured I'd just do some pill-poppin' for a few months to get it under control, no real big deal. Doctor Trent then went on to say "This is serious, Sher, it's a crippling disease and you'll need to see a Rheumatologist as soon as I can get you in."

So, I got on the 'puter to google after the call. Now, three days later it's starting to sink in just what a rotten affliction this is, for all of us. I wasn't really overweight because after my H-A I made a lifestyle change but I thought it was pretty neat I could eat more than usual and never worry about gaining a pound. I told my daughters to buy and eat flax seed thinking it must be the reason for this blessing. Yeah, right.

Every pain I thought was caused by just aging, wasn't.The stiffness in my neck, shoulders, back, knees and hips *OMG, the hips! has been steadilly worsening for these past two years. However, because I tend to have a high pain threshhold I still keep thinking that all of this stuff sucks but, I'll bear it if it just not progresses.

Finally broke down and took a 8-hr. Tylenol this afternoon. Helped for half of that time. I'm going to have to face-up to this truth quickly. I am a 65 year old woman who survived a major H-A in '03 and has four imbedded stents in my body. I may not have the option of choosing to take powerful drugs if I even wanted to.

Verna, if there's hope to continue a near normal life I believe we've arrived at the right place; this site. We have good information to digest and some truly good people to share this 'experience' with.

I believe we can feel fortunate for this, at least, right?

lee, Community Member
9/16/08 7:57pm

i wish i had an answer for both of us. i actually forget about it in between spells, but it always comes back. it takes a few days to realize what's happening again, my hands feel like they got run over by a car, all the way up to my elbows. my feet too. i walk alot for exercise, but when i feel like this, my muscles, my heart and lungs feel really taxed.  both sides always hurt, but flare ups are alot worse, and my right side is a little worse.  i don't have visually swollen joints, like the pictures, but they're warm and tight. i'm a smaller fifty year old woman, two years ago my blood was fine. how come i feel like this?  then eventually it goes away and i feel like a kid again?  help?

Flaregirl, Community Member
1/29/11 9:28pm

Hi, I have RA and sounds like I finally found some people like me.  I have been going crazy!  I thought I was going to go crazy if I didn't find someone soon.  I was just wondering,  you said you have spells and in between you feel like a kid again.  Could you tell me how long in between your spells are about?? ty LauraSmile

Chris, Community Member
11/19/10 5:53pm


I am in your same situation.  I was diagnosed over a year ago with RA due to a positive RF in my blood.  I get conflicting diagnoses, either RA or Fibromyalgia.  However, my inflammatory markers have remained elevated, and dr. now feels I do have RA.  My hands feel puffy and swollen, but no swollen joints at all.  I do get overall body stiffness when sitting for long periods of time.  I thought swollen joints were the main symptoms of RA, which is why I have been so reluctant to believe I have it.  My main problem is with my muscles, sometimes they have a burning sensation, I guess due to inflammation.  I'd be interested to here what you are taking for your RA.  I was on Methotextrate for 8 months, it did nothing.  I stopped cold turkey.  Dr. now wants me to start Avara. 

Marla, Community Member
1/12/11 11:52am

I am 58 and was diagnosed with RA 7 months ago.  I didn't have the swollen joints either, but was in so much pain in the beginning I could hardly walk or sit or bend.  My pain has never been in my fingers or hands, but in my back, hips, shoulders, arms and neck.  Other than aching, feeling lousy and running temperature, I have tendonitis-like pain in my arms and legs.  After a bone scan, MRI, x-rays and blood tests, my doctor came to the conclusion I have RA, but I have no joint damage.  He gave me steroids which took away about 80% of the pain in the beginning and started me on Arava - which did absolutely nothing.  He changed me to Enbrel injections and Methotrexate so I assumed I would be pain-free.  I still had the tendonitis pain in my arms until the Methotrexate was increased.  Now I'm dealing with sores in my mouth and hair loss from that.  I've wondered many times if I was misdiagnosed, but after seeing the comments here, I guess I'll just have to keep adjusting the medication until my pain isn't a daily thing.  The only good thing I can say is that I've lost 20 pounds!  

Isobella, Community Member
1/29/11 3:59pm

I too have no swelling with my RA except ocassionally my knuckle will appear a bit puffy but nothing to speak of, mine started in 2007 with only a sore index finger which I thought nothing of at the time,then out of nowhere I had a major flare which left me screaming in pain and unable to even stand up,after a home visit from a Doctor and an injection of some sort it subsided,from then on I have had pain daily in my hands, wrists,feet,knees and hips along with terrible fatigue.

I was referred to a Rheumatologist who gave me a Steroid injection and I felt almost instantly like a new person,however these eventually didn't work at all and he put me on Sulphasalazine,Diclofenac and Lyrica,the problem I have is that I seem to have significantly more pain when I'm taking the Sulphasalazine than I have when I don't take it,I kept a log on it all to monitor my pain levels at times when I was taking it and times when I wasn't,and now I am worried that if I stop taking it in order to suffer less pain that my joints will become more damaged over time,but I do feel better when I don't take the Sulphasalazine.I feel that because some days I am able to walk without limping etc that my Rheummy sees me as not all that important since there are many people a lot worse than that in his his eyes,I think this is unfair because although I don't have bent hands and feet etc I am in constant pain,it all comes down to whats not visual doesn't get any sympathy,I sometimes feel like wearing a badge that says "Just because I look Ok doesn't mean I FEEL Ok " It really is a nasty condition and so very unpredictable.I don't make plans anymore because I've had to call off too many times,I've felt quite good when the arrangements were made but I've come to realise that no two days are the same with RACry.... I only see my Rheummy once every 5 months so I feel he is not taking onboard that whether visable swelling and damage is there or not the pain and fatigue is exactly the same.I am now just going to treat myself and do whatever it is that makes me feel better instead of filling myself with Pills that are making me feel worse and giving me more pain.Apologies for my rant I just hope I'm not the only one who feels no one listens and you just get sent away with another load of Pills to try,that iniself can't be good for anyone constantly upsetting the body with side effects from a series of different Medications that may or may not help only to find months later they haven't helped so a different one is prescribed and the cycle of side effects from the new drug starts all over again .....

Isobella, Community Member
1/29/11 9:20pm

I sometime wonder the same thing because like you I don't have the visual characteristics of swelling and stuff that's supposed to go along with RA .... I sometimes wonder if the second you say Joint Pain thats what they diagnose .... I feel better when I'm not taking the RA drugs I'm actully in more pain when I take them,I know that sounds mad but it's a fact Frown I've stopped my Sulphasalazine for a couple of weeks to see how it goes and I'm keeping a log of my pain levels while I'm not taking it .... if I feel better then I'm just going to stick with the anti-inflammatories and regular pain killers I worry about taking those big drugs too and the fact that regular blood checks need to be done,that tells me other things could be damaged in the process of trying to fix the joint issue Cry


Good Luck I wish you well with lots of painfree days ahead

Cherry Delight, Community Member
4/ 4/14 2:04pm

I was diagnosed with Osteo in my hands 6 years ago. I had been having significant pain in my elbows, and much more stiffness in my hands. Initially, I was told it was tennis elbow. Then I started with hip pain. I was told that was Bursitis. After, severe shoulder pain, I was tested and found to have positive ANA and high Rheumatoid Factor. I have no swelling in my joints, except sometimes I can't get my rings on and I have one nodule that comes out and pains on the side of my index finger on right hand. My shoulder pain is extreme at times, and I experience extreme pain in the hips and back of the knees at times as well. My doctor said I don't have the other criteria for Lupus, but it's more than likely RA. She's recently said she thinks I have Fibromyalgia as well and wants to treat me for that. She says I don't need RA medication because it's not serious yet. There is a three year wait here to see a Rheumatologist. I was assessed by a physiotherapist that works with the Rheumatology team and was basically put on the bottom of the list. This is all because no one can see my pain, which has recently gone to my neck (haven't been able to move it properly for two days now). My pain is extreme and I'm afraid to take Fibromyalgia meds without knowing for sure if that's the problem. Also, I've read that in a case where you have both Fibro and RA, RA should be treated first. I feel that I'm left in limbo and that nobody can help me or even really cares.


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By verna whaley, Community Member— Last Modified: 04/04/14, First Published: 07/28/08