Early diagnosis is essential, because left unchecked, RA inflammation can wear away cartilage and bone, making the joint unstable, says Stan Cohen, M.D., MACR, a Dallas-based rheumatologist and past president of the American College of Rheumatology.
Problem is, a 2016 survey found that it takes people with rheumatoid arthritis four years and visits to at least three different physicians, on average, to get a proper diagnosis. Women have a higher risk (1 in 12 women vs 1 in 20 men), as do people who smoke, are obese, or have a family history. But there are other RA symptoms that are less well-known. If you notice any of the following, it’s best to check with your doctor to see if you’re at risk.