Rheumatoid arthritis is a tricky disease to diagnose in its early stages as patients can develop any of a wide range of symptoms and there is no single diagnostic measure by which RA can be confirmed or denied. Symptoms may not be constant; they may begin slowly, come and go, or progress over weeks or months. Symptoms may appear in one part of the body and disappear for a time (remission) to reappear somewhere else later on (flare).
The “typical” presentation of early RA includes joint stiffness in the mornings lasting for more than 30 minutes and pain and swelling in the small joints of the hands or feet, particularly in those that attach the fingers and toes, which persists for weeks. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to larger joints, such as knees, ankles, elbows, shoulders, and hips.
But for many patients with RA, early symptoms are less narrowly defined or disease-specific. And diagnosis can be challenging for medical professionals because there are s...
Arthritis - psoriatic
The arthritis may be mild and involve only a few joints, particularly those at the end of the fingers or toes. In some people the disease may be severe and affect many joints, including the spine. When the spine is affected, the symptoms are stiffness, burning, and pain, most often in the lower spine and sacrum.
People who also have arthritis usually have the skin and nail changes of psoriasis. Often, the skin gets worse at the same time as the arthritis.
Signs and tests
During a physical exam, the health care provider will look for:
Skin patches (psoriasis) and pitting in the nails
may be done.
Article updated and reviewed by Ariel D. Teitel, MD, MBA, Chief, Division of Rheumatology, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Manhattan. Editorial review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network on May 2, 2005. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease, primarily involving the peripheral joints (finger joints, wrists, toes and knees) and surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. This disease is among the autoimmune disorders (an abnormal immune response to oneself which leads to a sequence of tissue reactions and damage that may produce diffuse, systemic signs and symptoms). Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) can be one of the most disabling types of arthritis . It occurs worldwide, affecting more than 6.5 million people in the U.S. alone. It affects about 1% of people. The disease strikes women three times more often than men. Although it can occur at any age, the peak onset period is between the ages of 35 and 50. The disease may come on slowly or appear suddenly. RA usuall...
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