Rheumatoid Arthritis Guide
|What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis?
Although symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) tend to vary in nature and severity, and they can come and go, persistent inflammation of the joints lasting more than 6 weeks is a hallmark of the condition. An inflamed joint looks red and swollen and warm to touch. Both side of the body are usually affected (the knuckles on both hands for example). Eventually the joints become permanently deformed and movement is restricted. However, before joint pain is experienced, some people may also experience early symptoms which could be mistaken for many other conditions.
Early Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis
• General feeling of unwellness (malaise).
• Lack of appetite.
• Low grade fever: slightly raised temperature, defined as 100F (37.8C) in adults.
• Mild anemia (so you feel tired).
9 Additional Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
1. Injuries That Are Hard To Heal
Some people think they have an injury - like a sprained wrist - but it does not seem to heal. Sometimes, it turns out that they have RA. This is more common in younger people.
2. Numbness Or Tingling In The Hands
Some patients with RA also suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition is marked by numbness and tingling in the hands and wrists. It creates a sensation similar to when your 'funny bone' (the bone in your elbow) is knocked. The sensation is often worse at night.
3. Foot Pain
Many women with RA experience inflammation and pain on the top of the foot (called forefoot). Some will stop wearing high heels or see a podiatrist to cope with the discomfort. Others may develop pain or stiffness in their heels when tissue at the bottom of the foot, near the heel, become swollen (a common foot disorder called plantar fasciitis).
4. Eye Dryness
Those with RA are also at risk of developing Sjogrens syndrome - an autoimmune disorder that involves the eyes, mouth, nose and throat. White blood cells infiltrate the tear ducts and salivary glands, causing a reduction in secretions. This syndrome can appear in the early stages of RA, but it is unlikely to be the only symptom. If you visit an eye doctor because of eye dryness, be sure to mention any other symptoms (including those that appear unrelated, like hand pain).
5. Pairs Of Joint Aches
One of the hallmark signs of RA is achy joints. Some people think the aches are caused by overexertion, or it may even be misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. RA joint pain is not temporary, although it can flare up and subside. It usually lasts longer than a week and it can be symmetrical. That means both knees, hands, wrists or ankles will be affected at the same time. 40 percent of sufferers are forced to stop work within 5 years of the onset of their illness.
6. Morning Stiffness
Stiffness first thing in the morning or after long periods of inactivity is a sign of RA. It is also a common sign of osteoarthritis (another type of arthritis). The difference between the two is that stiffness usually subsides after half an hour with osteoporosis. With RA it can last an hour or even a few hours. Certain exercises can help alleviate the pain.
7. Locked Joints
Joints become locked, so that motion is restricted. This happens when the joint and surrounding tendons become swollen and the joint cannot bend. It may initially be mistaken for a sport injury.
Firm painless lumps that grow under the skin near affected joints. They can be as small as a pea or as large as a walnut. 25 to 35 percent of RA patients develop nodules, although they usually only occur in advanced stages of the disease. Sometimes they are movable, or other times they are firmly connected to tendons under the skin. Nodules can also appear on internal organs like the lungs and heart.
9. Hands Turning Blue
Raynauds phenomen is a condition that causes your fingers to turn blue in the cold. 90 percent of the time it doesn't indicate an underlying condition. In about one in 10 cases, Raynaud's is the sign of an underlying autoimmune disorder like scleroderma, Sjogren syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. See, why do my hands turn blue?
What Is The Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis And Osteoarthritis?
Both are types of arthritis, and although they share similar characteristics, the symptoms are different and require different treatment. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It affects 10 times more people than RA. The main difference between the two diseases is the cause behind joint problems. Osteoarthritis is the result of mechanical wear and tear to joints (like a car, the older a car gets, the more wear and tear you can expect) whereas RA is an autoimmune response. The body’s defense system attacks the joints.
RA usually starts between the ages of 20 and 45, although it can start later.
|Age when disease starts
||Usually starts between the ages of 20 and 45, although it can start later
||Usually begins later in life
|Speed it develops
||Rapidly over weeks and months
||Slowly over years
||Joints are swollen, painful and stiff
||Joints ache, there may be some pain but generally no stiffness
|Which joints are affected
||Affects small joints (hands, wrists) as well as larger joints (hips, shoulders, knees). Joints on both sides of the body are typically affected
||Symptoms usually start on one side of the body (although it may spread to the other side eventually). Fewer joints tend to be affected, usually the fingers, hips or spine
||Lasts at least an hour, often longer
||Less than an hour
|How you feel
||Feeling of general unwellness
||Whole-body symptoms are not present
Next: Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis