Rheumatoid arthritis: Symptoms


Rheumatoid (RA) is also referred to as a (primary) chronic polyarthritis. It is an inflammatory joint disease. Mainly affects the small joints of the hands and feet.

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common inflammatory joint disease in the world. In Germany, approximately 800,000 people have been affected, or about one percent of the population. Around two-thirds of patients are female. Although can occur at any age, most patients are old at the outbreak of the disease between 55 and 75 years. Ten percent of patients have a first-degree relatives (ie, for example, a parent), which also has a rheumatoid arthritis. The probability of identical twins both ill, is about 15 to 20 percent.


Rheumatism is a term that can be heard more often in everyday life. Colloquially are therefore in addition to the rheumatoid arthritis disease further the so-called rheumatic meant such as:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Reiter’s syndrome
  • Psoriatic arthritis

Related diseases are vasculitis (vasculitis) and collagen (autoimmune connective tissue diseases) such as lupus erythematosus or scleroderma. Popularly known as arthritis from other causes are called such as arthritis or gout. In the medical sense but that is not correct.

Rheumatoid arthritis: Special forms

There are some special forms of rheumatoid arthritis:

Caplan’s syndrome: rheumatoid arthritis in combination with a quartz pneumoconiosis (silicosis). Doctors refer to the possibility of Silikoarthritis. The Caplan’s syndrome typically occurs in workers in the coal industry.

Felty’s syndrome: The Felty’s syndrome is a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, which affects men mostly. In addition to joint , the spleen is swollen and the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) and platelets (thrombocytes) decreased.

Age Rheumatoid arthritis (late onset rheumatid arthritis, LORA): The age-Rheumatoid arthritis is a common disease. She breaks out only after the age of 60 and often affects only one or a few large joints. In addition, there are often general symptoms like fever, reduced performance, weight loss and muscle wasting.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis: Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common chronic diseases in childhood. Their causes are mostly unclear. One assumes that when those concerned – partly unrecognized – bacterial infection the immune system strongly activated. As a result, the body’s own tissue is destroyed (autoimmune reaction).

Systemic Arthritis: The Still’s disease is a subtype of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and affects the joints in addition to other organ systems such as the liver or spleen. The prognosis of this disease is unfavorable.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis begins with nonspecific symptoms such as

  • exhaustion
  • slight fever
  • Heaviness of the muscles
  • fatigue
  • anorexia
  • depression

Many patients then first think of a flu or a sports injury. Only in the further course, show typical rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. They include pain and swelling of the small joints of the fingers and feet, and as a rule on both hands or feet simultaneously (symmetrical involvement). Above all, a strong handshake dissolves in the patients from severe pain (Gaenslen characters).

Patients also complain that feel the joints in the morning stiff. This morning stiffness keeps lasts more than half an hour, and gives the patient, for example, difficulties in holding the coffee cup.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause circulatory disorders of individual fingers. Later disposed toward the midsection larger joints may be affected as the elbow, shoulder and knee or the upper cervical spine. The distal interphalangeal (distal interphalangeal joints, DIPs) and the thoracic and lumbar spine are usually not affected in rheumatoid arthritis.

More Rheumatoid arthritis – Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis can also attack the joints in addition to other structures. In this way may include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: constriction of the median nerve at the wrist by thickened, inflamed tendon sheaths
  • Sulcus ulnaris syndrome: irritation of the ulnar nerve at the elbow
  • Baker’s cyst: fluid accumulation in the knee, which may affect the bend
  • Rheumatoid nodules: nodular structures that form under the skin along the tendons or bruising
  • Sicca syndrome (secondary Sjögren’s syndrome): dysfunction of the salivary and lacrimal glands

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