Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that usually affects the hands, feet and wrists, according to the NHS.
It’s an auto-immune condition, which means the body’s immune system attacks the joints, mistaking them for invaders.
Over time, the damage can impact the joint’s cartilage and bones.
It’s still unknown why some people’s immune system attacks their joints, but it could be caused by patients’ joints or hormones.
These are the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and when you should see a GP.
“The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis often develop gradually over several weeks, but some cases can progress quickly over a number of days,” said the NHS.
“The symptoms vary from person to person.
“They can come and go, and may change over time.
“You may occasionally experience flares when your condition deteriorates and your symptoms become more severe.”
Joint pain is one of the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
The pain may feel like a throbbing or persistent ache in the joint.
It’s usually worst in the mornings after waking up, or after long periods of inactivity.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients may also have particularly stiff joints. It could be difficult to bend all of your fingers if your hands are affected.
“The lining of joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis become inflamed, which can cause the joints to swell, and become hot and tender to touch,” the NHS added.
Other rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include a poor appetite or persistent sweating.
You should see your GP if you think you may have rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Identifying it sooner makes treatment easier, and could help to slow down the condition’s progress.
The doctor may carry out a physical examination of your joints, and check for any swelling.
If your GP thinks you may have rheumatoid arthritis, they’ll refer you to a specialist.
There’s currently no cure for the arthritis, but some treatments may relieve pain or slow down joint damage.