Inflammation of joints in RA typically occurs in a symmetrical fashion, in other words, joints on both sides of the body will be affected. The earliest joints to be affected by inflammation in RA are usually the hands (including wrists) and feet. The elbow may also be affected early in the course of the disease and is the site most frequently affected by RA nodules. The shoulder is a common site for RA-related inflammation. However, this joint tends to be affected in later stages of the disease.
RA affects larger joints in the lower body, the knees and hips, and the ankles, in later stages of the disease. Inflammation of the hips may be difficult to detect by physical examination alone because of the location of the joint. However, chronic inflammation over time will result in joint destruction, with a significant impact on mobility. Inflammation in the knee and ankle should be readily apparent from swelling and stiffness that affect mobility.
Inflammation may affect the joints of the cervical spine, making it difficult to move your head and causing stiffness in the neck. Additionally, the larynx joint (also called the cricoarytenoid joint) may become inflamed, resulting in hoarseness in the voice