Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common inflammatory disease of the joints.


Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common inflammatory disease of the joints. It causes pain, bruising and stiffness, particularly in the fingers and toes. Cooling during a pain episode can bring relief, but treatment with anti-inflammatory medication is advisable in the long term.


Main symptoms

The wrist and small finger joints are often affected. Symptoms tend to come and go in 'flares'.

  • Swelling
  • Pain (gets worse with movement)
  • Stiff joints (particularly in the morning)
  • Overheating
  • Red skin

Other symptoms

  • Misalignment of joints (in particular the fingers)
  • General feeling of being unwell
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Skin rashes
  • Recurring fever

As the disease progresses it can also affect other organs (e.g. inflammation of tendons, tendon sheaths, heart, skin and/or eyes).

Causes and treatment


  • Autoimmune disorder
    • Cause is unclear
    • Suspected to be genetic predisposition, coupled with an infection by a pathogen that triggers a defence response

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Careful examination of the affected joints
  • Blood tests (typical “rheumatoid factors”)
  • X-ray (e.g. hands)
  • Ultrasound (sonography)
  • Joint aspiration to remove fluid from swollen joints (using a needle and syringe)
Possible therapies
  • Cooling
  • Painkillers
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs

What can I do myself?

  • Keep the painful joint at rest during a flare-up
  • Cooling compresses or ointments

Get a personal Preventive Care Recommendation now

When to see a doctor?

  • Painful joints that are usually stiff in the morning
  • Regularly recurring swelling, redness and pain in the joints
  • Misalignment of joints (in particular hands and feet)

Further information

Swiss League against Rheumatism (Rheumaliga Schweiz)


Rheumatoid arthritis

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.