Which joints are affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and what are the symptoms?

Updated: Feb 07, 2020
  • Author: Howard R Smith, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Joint involvement is the characteristic feature of RA. In general, the small joints of the hands and feet are affected in a relatively symmetric distribution. In decreasing frequency, the metacarpophalangeal (MCP), wrist, proximal interphalangeal (PIP), knee, metatarsophalangeal (MTP), shoulder, ankle, cervical spine, hip, elbow, and temporomandibular joints are most commonly affected.

Affected joints show inflammation with swelling, tenderness, warmth, and decreased range of motion (ROM). Atrophy of the interosseous muscles of the hands is a typical early finding. Joint and tendon destruction may lead to deformities such as ulnar deviation, boutonniere and swan-neck deformities, hammer toes, and, occasionally, joint ankylosis.

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