Most patients eventually develop a somewhat symmetrical arthritis. In other words, if one hand is involved, the other hand will also develop arthritis. Just as the presentation of rheumatoid arthritis may vary between patients, so can the appearance of the arthritis. Some may present with prolonged morning stiffness and pain in the affected joints, but not have any noticeable swelling. Others may have significant swelling.
Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis also develop tendon involvement, especially of the hands, occasionally leading to rupture of tendons and loss of function. No matter how the disease presents, the goal is to prevent joint and tendon damage with early diagnosis and treatment.
Answer provided by Scott J. Zashin, M.D., clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Division of Rheumatology, in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Zashin is also an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology and a member of the American Medical Association. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle Of Anti-TNF Blockers. The book is a must-have for anyone on one of the biologic drugs (Enbrel, Remicade, Humira) or considering the biologic drugs. Read my review of the book.