Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common variations of arthritis, and it usually affects those between the ages of 25 and 55, most of them women.
It’s an autoimmune and systemic disease that gives rise to many rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and signs.
The most overriding of all these symptoms is the unremitting pain and discomfort that sufferers experience on a regular basis, and which most often restrict their ability to move about freely and adversely affect their quality of life.
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What Are the Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms usually manifest themselves in the small joints of the feet and fingers, although they can appear in joints in other locations as well, such as the hips and knees.
- In autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system misfires and turns on healthy cells and tissues — in this case, the synovium or the lining of the joints. Pain and inflammation are the most prominent results of this “friendly fire” by the immune system.
- The majority of patients awake to stiff and painful joints in the morning, which can last for an hour or more. A long period of inactivity or rest can also trigger this pain and stiffness. The disease usually affects more than just one joint and appears bilaterally or symmetrically.
- That is, a person can experience symptoms in the fingers of both her left and right hands or the toes of both her left and right feet. It becomes harder to move the affected joint in its full range of motion, and even the least amount of pressure on it can cause a lot of pain.
- Also, the skin covering the joint can become red and inflamed, and at times the patient can feel either a tingling sensation or numbness in her skin. A low-grade fever is common among sufferers of this disease.
- Small nodules or ‘tophi’ appear under the skin of about 25 percent of people with the disease. These lumps and bumps are about the size of a pea and are usually painless. They are the results of inflammation and scar tissue, and can appear in areas such as the arms, ankles, and elbows. Even though the tophi are not painful, they should not be dismissed because they could indicate other, more serious conditions than rheumatoid arthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease, meaning it affects not just the joints but many other parts of the body as well. Inflammation can occur in the lungs, giving rise to a condition called pleurisy. Inflammation of glands in the mouth and in the eyes can cause mouth dryness and eye irritation, also called Sjogren’s syndrome. Inflammation can calso occur (though quite rarely) in the blood vessels and the pericardium, or the membrane enclosing the heart. Another complication of rheumatoid arthritis is anemia, where the bone marrow is unable to produce the adequate amount of red blood cells needed to keep it healthy.
- The disease does not only affect the body, many of the symptoms manifest themselves in psychological ways as well. For instance, patients complain of a feeling of listlessness or an overall feeling of not being well. This condition is also known by the term malaise. Getting tired easily, a feeling of fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss — these are all rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and contribute greatly to the patient’s perception of a reduction in her quality of life.
- It is important to remember that no two persons will have exactly the same symptoms. Just as each person’s bodily make-up and metabolisms are different, so too will rheumatoid arthritis symptoms will become manifest in each individual. Some men and women experience sudden flare-ups of the disease, with the symptoms disappearing after several days or weeks while others will experience continuous pain and swelling for several years. Aside from the constant pain, long-term rheumatoid arthritis that is left untreated will lead to gross deformities and permanent joint damage.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term or chronic disease marked by symptoms of inflammation and pain in the joints.
These symptoms and signs occur during periods known as flares. Other times are known as periods of remission — this is when symptoms dissipate completely.
What happens if you don’t pay attention to the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms that you feel? It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you have going on in your life.
Paying attention to the problem at hand, which has to do with your health, is incredibly important.
Signs & Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you don’t take care of your arthritis pain, you could find yourself unable to do the things that you are worrying so much about right now. Do you know what the symptoms of arthritis are?
If so, you should also know why its important to listen to your body so that the worst of the complications from the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms you face can be avoided.
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are in fact fairly simple. For starters, you are likely to feel pain. The pain is likely to be in joints throughout your body.
The most common places for this pain to be in is the smaller joints in your body including your fingers and feet, but it can be felt anywhere.
You are also likely to feel aching in those joints from movement. For some, moving your joint after it has been sitting for a few minutes will cause soreness and pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, which can occur throughout the body, include:
- joint pain
- joint swelling
- joint stiffness
- loss of joint function
In addition to those symptoms, you are likely to experience swelling in the joints which is caused by the inflammation there. The amount of swelling and pain that you have is an indication of just how severe your condition is.
Those that have extreme levels of pain are often facing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms that are advanced. That can lead to a very urgent need to seek out help.
When the symptoms progress, you may have loss of range of motion in that joint that may lead to deformity. You may notice this in knuckles that are no longer aligned or in swollen knees.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Complications
As your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms progress, you are likely to see increased amounts of pain and discomfort. The stiffness that you feel can also lead to fatigue in the muscles of that area of your body, which can ultimately limit the use that you can use them for.
In addition, some patients end up facing depression from the loss of quality of life that they are used to. But, they don’t stop there. Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop osteoporosis and some may develop a heart condition that some believe is caused by the arthritis itself.
They believe that the inflammation of your joints can cause your arteries and the tissue of your heart to become affected.
Probably the last part of the process of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms is that you will find yourself unable to use that joint any longer because the pain and deformity has removed that from you.
For some, that means being in a wheelchair and for others that means a treatment like joint replacement. In either case, there are risks that can be important to consider.
But, if you listen to your body and get the help you need for the arthritis that you feel, you can severely slow the progression of the condition and even restore some of the motion you need.
Depending on how much pain, stiffness and joint damage you have, you may have to adapt the way you carry out simple daily tasks. They can become difficult or take longer to complete.
There’s no cure for RA, but there are treatments that can help you to manage it. Treatments for RA help to manage the pain and control the inflammatory response which can in many cases result in remission.
Decreasing the inflammation can also help to prevent further joint and organ damage.
Knowing about the various rheumatoid arthritis symptoms will help each person be aware of what to look out for, especially if she is already predisposed to the disease. It will save the trouble and expense that could result from misdiagnosis and guesswork.
A person who presents with one or more of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention so that the progress of the disease can be slowed down or even halted at the earliest possible time.