clinical features

Last edited 08/2018 and last reviewed 01/2023

The clinical features of rheumatoid arthritis may be classified into:

  • articular manifestations
  • extra-articular manifestations

RA usually presents as a gradual-onset, symmetrical arthritis. The main symptoms present in RA are:

  • pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints – commonly seen in wrists, proximal interphalangeal, metacarpophalangeal, and metatarsophalangeal joints.
  • early morning stiffness that lasts over 30 minutes - sensitivity 74-77%, specificity 48-52%
  • systemic symptoms
    • weight loss
    • fatigue - 84% of patients at presentation in an observational study
    • malaise (1)


  1. Harnden K, Pease C, Jackson A. Rheumatoid arthritis. BMJ. 2016;352:i387.