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The joints most commonly affected by rheumatoid arthritis are in the hands, wrists, feet, ankles, knees, shoulders, and elbows. The disease typically causes inflammation symmetrically in the body, meaning the same joints are affected on both sides of the body. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may begin suddenly or gradually.
The following are the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Inflamed, painful joints
Enlarged and/or deformed joints (such as fingers bent toward the little finger and/or swollen wrists)
Frozen joints (joints that freeze in one position)
Cysts behind the knees that may rupture, causing lower leg swelling and pain
Hard nodules (bumps) under the skin near affected joints
Inflamed blood vessels (vasculitis) may occur occasionally, leading to nerve damage and leg sores
Inflamed membranes around the lungs (pleurisy), the sac around the heart (pericarditis), or inflammation and scarring of the lungs themselves, that may lead to chest pain, difficulty breathing, and abnormal heart function
Swollen lymph nodes
Sjögren's syndrome (dry eyes and mouth)
If a person has four or more of the following symptoms, he/she may be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis:
Morning stiffness that lasts longer than one hour for at least six weeks
Three or more joints that are inflamed for at least six weeks
Presence of arthritis in the hand, wrist, or finger joints for at least six weeks