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Suffering from Rhematoid Arthritis? Looking for a Orthopaedic Specialist to treat you?

Consult our Doctors @ Singapore Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic!

What is Rhematoid Arthritis ( RA )

Rheumatoid arthritis is when the joints become inflamed because a person’s immune system is not functioning properly.

RA results from a problem with the immune system. When a person’s immune system is healthy, it helps to fight infection. In people with RA, the immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in the lining of their joint, resulting in inflammation of the joints, making them swollen, stiff, and painful.

People who have RA will have some periods where they experience no symptoms and other times when the symptoms flare up.

Currently, there is no cure for RA, but proper treatment and moderate exercise may help reduce flares. If RA is left untreated, the joints, cartilage, and bones in affected areas can become damaged.

Early signs

The main symptoms of RA are joint pain and stiffness. Before these symptoms occur, a person may experience some early warning signs.

Some of these early warning signs relate to how a person feels overall, while others are specific to the joints. The symptoms that affect a person’s joints are more likely to indicate RA, particularly if more than one joint or both sides of the body are affected.

Spotting these warning signs can help people seek treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. The early warning signs of RA include:

Before experiencing any other symptoms, a person with RA may feel extremely tired and lack energy. They may also feel depressed.


Feelings of fatigue may affect:

  • everyday activities
  • relationships
  • sex drive
  • productivity at work

Feeling fatigued may be due to the body’s reaction to inflammation in the joints.

Inflammation associated with RA may cause people to feel unwell and feverish. They may have a slightly raised temperature, which is an early sign that sometimes accompanies fatigue. It may precede any noticeable effects on the joints.

A third early warning sign of RA is unexplained weight loss, which is possibly an indirect effect of inflammation.

When someone is feeling feverish and fatigued, they may lose their appetite, which can cause them to lose weight.

Another early sign of RA is joint stiffness. Stiffness may occur in one or two small joints, often in the fingers. It can come on slowly but may last for several days.

In addition to the stiffness that affects specific joints, a general feeling of stiffness in the body may be an early sign of RA.

This type of stiffness usually affects a person after they have been still for a long time. This symptom is the cause of morning stiffness, a characteristic complaint of patients with RA.

Joint tenderness that affects the hands and feet is a typical early sign of RA.

In the hands, the joint in the middle and at the base of the fingers may feel tender when pressed or during movement.

In the feet, the joints at the base of the toes may be tender. This soreness may cause people to walk on their heels or lift their toes up as they walk.

Joint pain in the fingers, wrists, and feet is a sign of RA. Inflammation makes the lining of the joint thicker and also causes the production of extra joint fluid.

Both of these factors put pressure on the capsule that surrounds the joint and irritate the nerve endings that it contains, causing pain.

Joints that look swollen in the hands and feet is a typical sign of RA. Joint swelling tends to be more apparent as RA progresses, but subtle swelling may be an early sign.

Inflammation in the joints may give them a red appearance. Discoloration of the skin around the joints in the hands and feet is a sign of RA.

Redness occurs because the inflammation causes the blood vessels in the surrounding skin to widen. Wider vessels allow more blood to flow into this area, giving the skin a red appearance.

Joint warmth is caused by inflammation and may be present before redness or swelling occurs. This can be an early sign of RA.

Numbness and tingling affecting the hands and feet may be an early sign of RA. These symptoms are caused by inflammation in the joints that can cause nerve compression, resulting in loss of sensation.

In the early stages of RA, a person may notice they are having trouble bending their wrist back and forth.

As the disease progresses, damage to the joints can affect ligaments and tendons, making it hard to bend and straighten them.

It is common for people affected by RA to experience symptoms in the same joints on both sides of the body. While this symmetry is typical, it is not the case for everyone with the condition.


It is important to tell a doctor or medical professional when RA symptoms change or get worse, as it may be a sign of complications developing.

If left untreated, RA can damage the joints, the surrounding cartilage, and the nearby bones, leading to joint deformities.

Untreated RA can also lead to firm lumps developing on or near the joints called rheumatoid nodules. These nodules are a visual characteristic that people often associate with the condition.

In addition to joint deformities and rheumatoid nodules, RA can also lead to:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • inflammation in other areas of the body, including the eyes, heart, and lungs
  • greater risk of heart attack and stroke

When to see a Specialist Doctor?

A person experiencing the early signs and symptoms of RA should go to see a doctor. A doctor can help to diagnose the condition and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis reduce the likelihood of experiencing complications from the condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis causes

The cause of RA isn’t known. However, certain factors seem to have a role in increasing the risk of developing RA or triggering its onset. Factors that increase risk of RA include:

  • being a woman
  • having a family history of RA

Factors that may trigger onset of RA include:

  • exposure to certain types of bacteria, such as those associated with periodontal disease
  • having a history of viral infections like infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis
  • trauma or injury, such as bone breakage or fracture, dislocation of a joint, and ligament damage
  • smoking cigarettes
  • obesity

Rheumatoid Arthritis in Hand

Arthritis in the hands may start as a low-level burning sensation that you feel at the end of the day. Eventually, you may experience pain that isn’t necessarily from using your hands. This pain can get quite severe if you don’t treat it. You may also feel swelling, redness, warmth, and stiffness. If the cartilage in your joints wears away, you may notice some deformities in your hands. You may also have a grinding feeling in the joints of your hands, fingers, and large joints, if the cartilage deteriorates completely.

As the disease progresses, fluid-filled sacs or synovial cysts may develop in the wrists and around the joints of the hands. These cysts aren’t without complications and tendon rupture can occur in some cases. You may also develop knobby growths, called bone spurs, in the affected joints. Over time, bone spurs can make it harder for you to use your hands.

If you have RA in your hands, your doctor will work with you on exercises which can help you to retain movement and function. These, along with other types of treatment, can help reduce inflammation and stave off progression of the disease

Rheumatoid Arthritis in other areas

RA may be most visible in your hands and feet, particularly as the disease progresses and especially if you don’t have treatment. Swelling of fingers, wrists, knees, ankles, and toes are common. Damage to ligaments and swelling in the feet can cause a person with RA to have trouble walking.

If you don’t get treatment for RA, you may develop severe deformities in your hands and feet. Deformities of the hands and fingers may cause a curved, claw-like appearance. Your toes can also take on a claw-like look, sometimes bending upward, and sometimes curling under the ball of the foot. You may also notice ulcers, bunions, and calluses on your feet.

Lumps, called rheumatoid nodules, can appear anywhere on your body where joints are inflamed. These can range in size from very small to the size of a walnut or larger, and they can occur in clusters.

What will the doctor do to diagnose RA?

Doctor sees virtual images of the patient on a blue background.

Diagnosing RA can take time and may require multiple lab tests to confirm clinical examination findings. Your doctor will use several tools to diagnose RA.


First your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They’ll also perform a physical exam of your joints. This will include looking for swelling and redness, and testing your reflexes and muscle strength. Your doctor will also touch the affected joints to check for warmth and tenderness. If they suspect RA, they’ll most likely refer you to a specialist called a rheumatologist.


Since no single test can confirm a diagnosis of RA, your doctor or rheumatologist may use several different types of tests. They may test your blood for certain substances like antibodies, or check the level of certain substances like acute phase reactants that are elevated during inflammatory conditions. These can be a sign of RA and help support the diagnosis.


They may also request certain imaging tests. Tests such as ultrasonography, x-ray exams, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) not only show if damage from RA has been done to your joints but also how severe the damage is. A complete evaluation and monitoring of other organ systems might be in order for some people with RA, too.

How to treat Rhematoid Arthritis?


Rheumatoid Arthritis usually requires lifelong treatment, including medications, physical therapy, exercise, education, and possibly surgery. Early, aggressive treatment for RA can delay joint destruction. Seek for an Orthopeadic Surgeon and find out what treatment best suit your condition.

Why Choose Singapore Sports Orthopaedic Clinic for Rheumatoid Arthritis?


Dr. Ambrose Yung

Orthopaedic Surgeon


Special interest in Sports Medicines, Osteoarthritis, Fracture, Partial & Total Joint Replacement, Minimal Invasive Trauma Surgery, Arthroscopy, Common Orthopaedic Problems for Adult & Children

Dr. Ambrose Yung is a specialist orthopaedic consultant with experience in hip fracture surgery, partial knee replacement, complex primary total knee replacement, revision knee replacement, minimal invasive knee and shoulder sports surgery, foot and ankle pain, elbow pain / bursitis, fractures, common orthopaedic problems for Adult and Children.

Dr Mathew

Dr. Mathew Tung

Orthopaedic Surgeon


Special interest in treating Back Pain, Neck Pain, Nerve Disorder, Headache, Brain, Tumour, Osteoporosis, Stroke, Sweaty Palm

Dr. Mathew Tung is a spinal specialist neurosurgeon who specialises in treating disorders of the brain and spine with special interest in in back pain and neck pain, nerve pain and headache. He believes that neurosurgery should always consider the non-invasive options before open surgery to attain minimum morbidity and a fast return to optimum function.

Dr Chee

Dr. Chee Khin Ghee

Orthopaedic Surgeon


Special interest in Microsurgery of Hand and Wrist – for Adult and Children

Dr. Chee Khin Ghee is a Specialist Hand Surgeon specialising in hand & wrist injuries, arthritis, tumours, wrist arthroscopy, hand joint replacement and soft tissue reconstruction microsurgery. In addition to common bony, soft tissue and nerve conditions of the upper limb, Dr. Chee’s sub-specialty and interest are in Hand and Wrist arthroplasty and arthroscopy which include joint replacement and reconstruction.


Dr. Kevin Yip

Orthopaedic Surgeon


Special interest in Knee and Shoulder Pain, Injuries, Fracture, Common Orthopaedic Problems, Arthroscopy Surgery for Adult & Children

Dr. Kevin Yip is a senior orthopaedic surgeon and a professor who specialises in orthopaedic trauma surgery. He has published close to 100 research articles. When Dr. Kevin Yip sees you, he will take a detail history and will then examine you. He uses various methods to diagnose your condition. He will then take you through the results by showing you pictures, on screen, of your tendon, ligaments,nerve or bone and will discuss your treatment options.


Most frequent questions and answers

Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t considered a hereditary disease, yet it does appear to run in families. This may be due to environmental causes, genetic causes, or a combination of both. If you have family members who have or have had RA, talk to your doctor, especially if you have any symptoms of persistent joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, unrelated to overuse or trauma.

Having a family history of RA increases your risk of getting the disease, and early diagnosis can make a big difference in how effective treatment will be.

Like RA, people with OA can experience painful and stiff joints that can make moving around difficult. People with OA may have joint swelling after extended activity, but OA doesn’t cause any significant inflammatory reaction that typically results in redness of the affected joints.

Unlike RA, OA isn’t an autoimmune disease. It’s related to the natural wear and tear of the joints as you age or it can develop as a result of trauma. OA is most often seen in older adults. However, it can sometimes be seen in younger adults who overuse a particular joint — such as tennis players and other athletes — or those who have experienced a severe injury.

RA is an autoimmune disease. The joint damage from RA isn’t caused by normal wear and tear but by your body attacking itself.

Talk to Our Specialist Doctors

RA is a chronic disease that doesn’t currently have a cure. That said, most people with RA don’t have constant symptoms. Instead, they have flare-ups followed by relatively symptom-free periods, called remissions. The course of the disease varies from person to person and symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Though symptoms may stop for extended periods, joint problems caused by RA will usually get worse over time. That’s why early treatment is so important to help delay serious joint damage. If you’re experiencing any symptoms or have concerns about RA, talk to our doctors.

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