Mild Pain In Joints But No Swelling Or Stiffness - Is This Just Early Ra?

Question

Asked by Annika

Mild Pain In Joints But No Swelling Or Stiffness - Is This Just Early Ra?

I am a 26 year old female and for the past three months I have been having mild joint pain in all the typical joints - hands, knees, elbows. The pain is very mild and comes and goes and the only reason I even really pursued it with a doctor is because I have a strong family history of arthritis. I don't have morning stiffness, in fact my symptoms get worse as the day goes on, and I have no visible swelling at all. Also I have not had any atypical tiredness or fevers. My doctor examined me and thought that my symptoms didn't seem like arthritis but my blood work came back positive for inflammatory factors and RF (the RF was only a few points above normal though). I am going to see a specialist.. but the waiting is killing me... does this seem like RA?

Answer

Early RA manifests in many mysterious ways - it's why it's often hard to diagnose, making people go from doctor to doctor until the disease either accelerates or they find a doctor who has enough experience that s/he recognize the signs. The combination of your family history of arthritis and your blood tests seem to indicate that something inflammatory could be going on. I wouldn't get too hung up on the actual numbers in your blood test as indicating RA or not RA - a significant amount of people with the disease have a negative RA factor.

Are there any other reasons that could cause the pain? Did something change in your life three months ago - did you get a new job, move, pick up a new hobby or form of exercise? Were you sick with the flu or maybe mononucleosis? Can you think of anything else that you're doing during the day that changed the way you use your body, thus perhaps contributing to the pain? If nothing like that explains what's going on, you may need to have the early stages of some form of inflammatory disease and it may be RA - it's hard to tell. Sometimes with this disease, the more you use your body, the more achy you get, so it's possible. Unfortunately, I think you're in a situation where if the specialist isn't sure, either, you may have to wait it out to see if your symptoms increase as times goes on.

Please let us know what happens.

Answered by Lene Andersen, MSW