Complete Insights about Unusual Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Unusual Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Beyond the common aches and joint tenderness, there lies the hidden world of peculiar signs of serious disorders. 

One of them is Rheumatoid Arthritis!

Rheumatoid arthritis also known as RA is much more than just ordinary joint stiffness and pain. RA is a chronic disorder that greatly affects your joints which may lead to permanent joint immobility.

Sometimes, unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis appear that are difficult to identify. If you ever notice strange symptoms, the first step is to consult expert healthcare advisors. They will assess your symptoms and give you detailed insights related to your underlying disorder.

At SNS Rheumatology, we have a team of the best rheumatologist in NJ. You can reach out to us for any of your bone or joint health-related queries.

Want to learn more about rheumatoid arthritis? 

The unusual symptoms it presents, methods to identify and treat these unusual symptoms? 

Keep on reading!

Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system targets its joints, producing inflammation and damage. It typically affects the lining of the joints, leading to stiffness, pain, and swelling in the affected area. If rheumatoid arthritis is not treated on time it can lead to permanent joint disability.

According to a research study, rheumatoid arthritis affects 1% of the population worldwide & is more common in women aged 30-60.

Early detection of rheumatoid arthritis can help in managing the symptoms.

Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis has a variety of symptoms, which significantly vary from person to person. Identifying common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can help in the early detection of the disease and its proper cure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most prevalent symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Recurring Pain: RA causes persistent pain in the affected joint. The pain is usually worse in the morning or after being inactive for a while.

  • Rheumatoid Nodules: Individuals with RA may develop solid lumps under the skin, generally near pressure spots.

  • Malaise: This is a widespread feeling of discomfort and tiredness, a non-specific symptom that many people with RA encounter.

  • Stiffness: The Stiffness in the Affected Joint makes movement difficult, especially after prolonged rest. Many people with RA suffer from morning stiffness that lasts for longer than an hour.

  • Inflammation: Joint Inflammation causes swelling, making the joints sensitive.

  • Fatigue: Several individuals with RA feel chronic fatigue, which may cause a significant effect on everyday chores.

Common symptoms rheumatoid arthritis

Unusual Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA can show unusual symptoms that are difficult to identify and need proper attention for diagnosis.

1.      Numbness and Tingling

Numbness and itching are uncommon symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. These symptoms don’t typically express themselves in rheumatoid arthritis like typical symptoms such as swelling and joint pain. These can be caused by a variety of RA- related conditions including:

  • Nerve Compression: Rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation around the nerve. It produces compression and tingling sensations in the hands and feet.

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: It is an RA-related inflammation that mostly affects the wrist joint. This inflammation compresses the medial nerve of the wrist. As a result, numbness and tingling occur.

  • Rheumatoid Vasculitis: This is a rare complication that does inflammation in the blood vessels causing rheumatoid arthritis pericarditis. The inflamed blood vessels then disrupt the normal blood flow to the nerves, resulting in numbness.

  • Drug Side-Effects: Sometimes, the drugs you use to treat RA symptoms cause numbness as a side effect.

2..    Dry Eyes and Mouth

It is another rare symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Basically dry eye and mouth is a symptom of Sjogren’s Syndrome which is an autoimmune disorder just like rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes the immune system misunderstands rheumatoid arthritis as Sjogren’s Syndrome and targets the glands that produce tears and saliva, causing dry eyes and mouth. Here’s how it happens:

  • Glandular Infiltration: In Sjorgen’s syndrome, immune cells attack the lacrimal glands in eyes and mouth, as a result, tear and saliva production decreases, leading to mouth and eyes dryness.

  • Eye Problems: The lack of tear and saliva production can lead to corneal damage, and reduced sensitivity of eyes towards light.

  • Mouth Issues: Month dryness can cause tooth decay, mouth infections, and difficulty in swallowing and chewing.

3.      Skin Rashes

Rheumatoid arthritis is known for its joint-related symptoms. However, it can also cause uncommon symptoms like skin nodules in some cases.

Rheumatoid Nodules are small subcutaneous outgrowths that can develop in any part of the body. These nodules form in response to inflammation by rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammation causes immune cells and connective tissues to accumulate in the affected area, resulting in nodule formation.

4.      Difficulty Breathing and Chest Pain

Breathlessness and chest pain are not usual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. So, if you ever notice these symptoms, be aware as it could be a sign of a rare but risky form of RA known as rheumatoid lung disease (RLD).

 RLD symptoms vary, but most commonly include shortness of breath, a dry cough, and chest discomfort. As the disease worsens, it can lead to more serious outcomes such as rheumatoid arthritis swollen lymph nodes, causing chest pain.

5.      Mental Health Problems

Rheumatoid arthritis can also give rise to mental health problems. These problems occur due to the collective interplay of psychological, biological, and social parameters as stated by National Center for Biological Information. These intricate mental health problems may include,

  • Anxiety: Excessive pain, and inability to move initiates the feeling of hopelessness and frustration in a person, further contributing to depression and anxiety.

  • Cognitive Impairment: People with RA may experience “brain fog”. This condition involves symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty in paying attention, and processing information.

  • Sleep Difficulties: RA may interfere with the sleep patterns of a person. It can make falling asleep at night difficult.

Unusual symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis



Snoring is another unusual symptom of rheumatoid arthritis that happens due to obstruction of airways. Rheumatoid arthritis can induce inflammation in the cervical spine, which partially blocks the airways during sleep, causing snoring.

7.      Temporary Numbness in Fingers and Toes

Temporary Numbness in fingers and toes occurs due to peripheral neuropathy and inflammation in the nerves that carry signals to and from brain to different parts of the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, these nerves can become compressed, and damaged causing temporary numbness in finger and toes. As a result, tremors in hand can also occur.

8.      Hearing Abnormalities

In some cases, RA can give rise to hearing problems. The most common hearing dysfunctions include:

  • Tinnitus: Inflammation in the auditory system produces strange buzzing, or ringing sounds in the ear.

  • Sensorineural Hearing loss: RA-linked inflammation damages the tiny hair cells in the cochlea causing permanent hearing loss in both ears.

  • Autoimmune Inner Ear Disorder: In this condition, immune cells mistakenly attack the inner structure of the ear, responsible for hearing.

9.      Gastrointestinal Problems

RA can cause various gastrointestinal problems as an unusual symptom. Here are some of the gastrointestinal problems than rheumatoid arthritis may cause:

  • Gastroparesis: It is a condition in which stomach muscles weaken causing delay in stomach emptying. Symptoms of Gastroparesis involve nausea, bloating, and vomiting.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). According to Medical News Today , abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss are some of the symptoms that IBD shows.

  • Dysphagia: This affects the tissues present in the throat, and esophagus, which makes swallowing of food difficult.

  • Perforation or Bleeding: Chronic inflammation in case of RA weakens the gastrointestinal lining, leading to ulcers or bleeding in the stomach and intestine.

How to Diagnose Unusual Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?​

Unusual symptoms make diagnosis more difficult. Some of the diagnostic techniques that could be used to detect uncommon symptoms of arthritis may include:

Medical History and Physical Examination:

The first step is to go over the patient’s medical history. It involves physical examination as well as the identification of autoimmune illness. Unusual symptoms may necessitate extra care during this period.

Blood Tests

Several blood tests are performed to diagnose RA symptoms.

  • Anti-CCP Antibodies: Anti-cyclic citrullinated antibodies interfere with bone and joint cavities and initiate inflammation. Greater the inflammation, the more the chance of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Rheumatoid Factor: RF identifies the presence of antibodies linked with rheumatoid arthritis. However, it is not sufficient to identify rheumatoid arthritis completely.

  • C-reactive Protein and ESR: Both of the tests are useful to measure inflammation. Since CRP does an in-depth analysis of inflammation. It is preferable to detect symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Complete Blood Count: This test gives a picture of the amount of red and white blood cells in your body. In complete blood count, the hematocrit test measures the quantity of red blood cells and the hemoglobin test identifies the oxygen-carrying capacity of the joint cells. Low levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit outcome may be indicative of rheumatoid arthritis.

How to diagnose unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritisImaging Tests

X-rays, Ultrasound, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging are the three most commonly performed tests to identify RA. They identify levels of inflammation and disease progression.

Joint Fluid Analysis

In case of joint swelling, a sample of synovial fluid is extracted from the affected joint. Which is then checked for signs of inflammation, and cause of joint pain.

Special Consultation

In case of unusual symptoms, a team including a rheumatologist, an expert in autoimmune illness and rheumatoid arthritis can give expert examination and counseling.

Treating Unusual Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Wide variety of treatments are available to treat unusual rheumatoid arthritis symptoms which may include:

  • Traditional Treatment: The most widely used treatment involves anti-rheumatic drugs and non-steroidal drugs. These help lower inflammation and manage pain. Physical therapy can help with joint function as well.

  • Alternative Approach: Standard therapies such as acupuncture, herbal treatment, and mind-body therapies may complement traditional treatment. However, it is necessary to consult a healthcare advisor before implementing these alternatives.

  • Multidisciplinary Care: It is essential for comprehensive RA management. Collaborative treatment involving experts of multi-disciplines provides personalized care to improve a patient’s overall quality of life.

rheumatoid arthritis swollen lymph nodes

Tips for RA Management and Prevention

Managing RA is a multifaceted strategy to ease symptoms, and avoid joint damage. From medication adherence to lifestyle changes, applying these prevention tips can help you live a healthy life.

  • Early Diagnosis: Early detection of odd RA symptoms is of the utmost importance for immediate intervention and control.

  • Weight Management: Hold an appropriate weight to mitigate joint stress and improve RA symptoms.

  • Proper Use of Drugs: Take pharmaceuticals with the guidance of your healthcare advisor. It will help to effectively manage the symptoms and prevent the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Physical Activity: Low-impact workouts such as yoga, swimming, and walking can help to increase joint mobility while decreasing joint strain.

  • Stress Management: Reduce stress by incorporating stress-relieving strategies such as meditation, and deep breathing among other strategies.

  •  Protection of Joints: Use assisting devices such as biomechanical gadgets to protect your joints throughout daily activities.

  • No Smoking: Stop or limit smoking. As it may aggravate RA symptoms and hinder the efficacy of treatment.

  • Regular Check-ups: Seek early detection and frequent communication with your healthcare advisor. It will aid you to track your condition.

  • Balanced Diet: To support general health and manage inflammation. Must eat a nutritious and balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Tips for RA Management and Prevention

Our Aim at SNS Rheumatology

At SNS Rheumatology, we have a team of expert rheumatologists that are working hard each day to serve our worthy patients with medical assistance related to their disorders.

The Final Verdict

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic joint disorder that causes severe pain and immobility in the joints. While RA primarily affects the joints, it can also cause some uncommon symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems, eye and mouth dryness, hearing problems, and mental health problems among other symptoms.

Being aware of uncommon symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can protect you from future calamities. If you notice any strange symptoms in your body, you must consult a healthcare advisor for proper evaluation and treatment of the underlying disorder.

Patients Also Ask

Does rheumatoid arthritis affect the distal interphalangeal joint?

Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the proximal interphalangeal joints (PIP) and metacarpophalangeal joints (MCP). However, in some cases, it can also affect distal interphalangeal joints.

Does rheumatoid arthritis cause dizziness?


Yes, rheumatoid arthritis can cause dizziness in some individuals. The dizziness may result from inflammation in the ear, or due to the use of medications to treat RA symptoms.

Take Action Now!

Schedule an Appointment with SNS Rheumatology.

Dr. Qaisar Usmani

Meet Dr. Qaisar Usmani, a Board Certified Rheumatologist with over 20 years of experience in the field, currently serving as Section Chief at Monmouth Medical Center and GPHA, Inc. in Pennsylvania, specializing in the treatment of various Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal diseases.

Dr. Sadia Ghafoor
Dr. Sadia Ghafoor

Meet Dr. Sadia Ghafoor, a board certified specialist in rheumatology who completed her medical training at the University of Medicine and Dentistry School of Osteopathic Medicine and her fellowship in rheumatology at the State University of New York Stony Brook campus, with additional board certification in internal medicine.

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