Rheumatoid arthritis in the elbow. This is a first hand account the first sign of RA in the elbow is simply pain and heat emanating from the joint. this usually doesn't last and you ignore it. as time wears on you note that the elbow tends to become tender when in use more and more often. In my particular case, while I was at work one of my work mates commented on the size of my elbow as it had swollen up to a ridiculous size. I went to see the doctor about it at this stage. the Doctor refer ed me onto a rhuematologist. who daignosed RA. I was immediately put on drugs that are intended to reduce the damage being done by the disease in other parts of the body as well. The elbow settled down for a while and all went well for a while, then swelling pain and heat started again in that particular joint. what happens is that the immune system decides that the material between the joints is undesirable and attacks it until there is nothing left leaving you with bone on bone as in osteoarthritis. If unchecked the joint eventually becomes useless and deformed, the bone becomes damaged and the muscles around that joint atrophy. In my particular case the joint along with the scar tissue around it will be removed and the joint will be replaced with a prostheses that hopefully will last for over 10 years without any further trouble. The upshot of it is If you can nip the damage in the bud with effective treament, by all means do so.