Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune health condition that presents itself with painful chronic inflammation of the joints.

Many people dismiss the early signs of RA as the condition starts slowly with minor symptoms that can be brushed off as an inconvenience. Symptoms can come and go, making people think they have some temporary condition that will go away eventually.

However, RA symptoms will progress slowly over weeks or months until the person realises they are in persistent pain from the condition. Symptoms can also change as time goes on, with people experiencing flare-ups followed by a period of remission where their symptoms become more manageable.

What are the early symptoms of RA?

As with any inflammatory health condition, it is recognising the symptoms early on and seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment to help you manage the condition better that can make all the difference.

Many people start presenting with symptoms of RA between the ages of 30 and 50, and more often, women will develop RA rather than men. Sometimes it can be hard to recognise early symptoms of RA as the disease doesn’t always include swelling and redness in the joints.

Here are some of the early-stage symptoms to look out for:

  • A noticeable increase in tiredness and fatigue
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Tenderness and pain in some regions of your body
  • Weakness in areas of your body that weren’t there before

What are the later-stage symptoms of RA?

Many people will ignore the early signs of RA, but if the condition is allowed to progress, you will start to notice more obvious signs that could point to RA.

Later stage RA symptoms include:

  • Swelling, redness, and warmth in joints
  • Severe fatigue
  • Joint stiffness on waking
  • Fever
  • Numbness and tingling

RA causes inflammation of the lining of your joints, so when you have a flare-up, your joints may become red and swollen and feel warm to the touch.

Your immune system will be going into overdrive, fighting off the inflammation in your body, which drains a lot of your energy, causing you to feel exhausted even when doing everyday activities that you are used to carrying out. It is common for you to develop a low-grade fever, which is another common sign of a flare-up.

Getting a diagnosis for RA in London

The sooner you get a confirmed diagnosis for RA, the better. There isn’t a single diagnostic test to confirm your RA, so you will need to have multiple tests, including blood tests, joint and organ examinations, and X-ray or ultrasound images.

You can get a referral to a rheumatologist through your GP, but there can be a lengthy wait for this service. To save time and speed up your diagnosis and access to treatment, you can book a private consultation with Dr Bhadauria in one of his London-based clinics.

Dr Bhadauria is a specialist rheumatologist who has had extra training and clinical experience in treating diseases that affect the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons.