Ask the MSK Expert: What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?


"What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?"

Dr. Shook says: “Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that develops when the immune system targets the body’s joint linings. This inflammatory condition is most often characterized by joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Prominent joint stiffness in the morning that lasts 30 minutes or longer may help differentiate rheumatoid arthritis from osteoarthritis. The pattern of joint involvement also helps set apart rheumatoid arthritis from osteoarthritis.  For example, pain in the base of the thumbs or lumbar spine is not characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.  

“It is important to remember that rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease and may cause symptoms such as significant fatigue, swollen glands and low-grade fevers.  Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other organ systems including the lungs, skin, eyes, nervous system, kidneys, heart and skin.  

“If you experience any of these symptoms, seeing a rheumatologist may help. Rheumatology is the study and treatment of rheumatic diseases, arthritis and other disorders of the joints, muscles and ligaments. The role of a rheumatologist is to diagnose and treat patients who experience these conditions and help them achieve their best quality of life.”

Physician Spotlight
Betsy F. Shook, M.D., is a fellowship-trained rheumatologist at Tri Rivers. She treats rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, vasculitis, psoriatic arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis, lupus and other connective tissue diseases, helping patients manage these complex conditions. 

Dr. Shook sees patients in our Cranberry/Mars and Slippery Rock offices. To schedule an appointment with her, or any other Tri Rivers provider, please call 1-866-874-7483 or click here.