What Exactly Is Rheumatoid Arthritisand How Do You Know If You Have It
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that mainly affects the body’s joints, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
The condition, per the CDC, commonly affects the joints in the hands, wrists, and kneesand occurs when the lining of those joints becomes inflamed, damaging the joint tissue. That damage can eventually lead to long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness, and deformity.
The symptoms of RAwhich can include pain, stiffness, tenderness, and swellingcan go through phases where they’re worse and better . But some symptoms of RA can mimic those of other conditionshere’s what to look out for, and how to know if it’s due to RA or something else.
How Do I Know If I Have Rheumatoid Arthritis
The initial symptoms that can make you know that you have rheumatoid arthritis include morning joint stiffness and fatigue. This feeling can last for at least four hour before disappearing and the body becoming energetic again to carry out tasks. You are also likely to experience fever that comes and go on daily basis and especially in the evenings during these periods you will become weak and lose appetite for everything and you wont want even to be disturbed. However when the fever goes, you are normal again. Skin rash is also another common sign and it also appears and goes. These two signs can disappear for good but that does not mean that you are safe from rheumatoid arthritis. Another thing that you are likely to note is that it becomes hard for you to carry out tasks that involve your joints such as turning the door knob, using the stairs becomes a problem as you fear feeling pain in the knees.
Are People With Rheumatoid Arthritis At Greater Risk For Covid
Yes, but this is an ongoing area of research. Its believed that autoimmune and inflammatory rheumatic disease patients are at higher risk for being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and having worse outcomes compared to the general population, according to the ACR.
However, this is likely affected by factors such as age, other comorbidities such as heart or lung disease, which is common in RA, and taking steroid medications, rather than simply having RA alone.
The medical community does consider patients living with rheumatoid arthritis to be at a greater risk for COVID-19, based on their inflammatory response from their condition, says Dr. Cadet. The medications used to treat the disease can also suppress the immune system.
In other words, when your body is preoccupied by fighting its own cells, it doesnt attack invaders as well as it should. Medications that affect immune system function can also affect the bodys ability to fight off viruses like the coronavirus.
For more information, check out this summary of research on inflammatory arthritis and rheumatic disease patients and their risk for COVID-19 complications.
Recommended Reading: How To Fight Against Arthritis
Infectious And Reactive Arthritis
Infectious arthritis is an infection in one of your joints that causes pain or swelling. The infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. It can start in another part of your body and spread to your joints. This kind of arthritis is often accompanied by a fever and chills.
Reactive arthritis can occur when an infection in one part of your body triggers immune system dysfunction and inflammation in a joint elsewhere in your body. The infection often occurs in your gastrointestinal tract, bladder, or sexual organs.
To diagnose these conditions, your doctor can order tests on samples of your blood, urine, and fluid from inside an affected joint.
The fingers are most commonly affected with psoriatic arthritis , but this painful condition affects other joints as well. Pink-colored fingers that appear sausage-like, and pitting of the fingernails, may also occur.
The disease may also progress to your spine, causing damage similar to that of ankylosing spondylitis.
If you have psoriasis, theres a chance you could also develop PsA.
Is It Ra Or Osteoarthritis
When you first notice foot pain, you may wonder if it’s osteoarthritis . OA is also known as wear-and-tear arthritis, and it is more common than rheumatoid arthritis.
There is no clear-cut way to tell if you have OA or RA without a medical diagnosis. But OA and RA do have some key differences.
Usually affects both feet at once
Morning stiffness generally lasts longer than half an hour
Most often affects only one foot
Stiffness tends to be easier to relieve in the morning, often getting better in less than half an hour or with a few minutes of stretching
Recommended Reading: How To Treat Arthritis In Knee At Home
Are There Any Home Remedies For Rheumatoid Arthritis
If someone has joint pain or stiffness, he or she may think it is just a normal part of getting older and that there is nothing he or she can do. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are several options for medical treatment and even more to help prevent further joint damage and symptoms. Discuss these measures with a health-care professional to find ways to make them work.
- First of all, don’t delay diagnosis or treatment. Having a correct diagnosis allows a health-care professional to form a treatment plan. Delaying treatment increases the risk that the arthritis will get worse and that serious complications will develop.
- Learn everything about rheumatoid arthritis. If there are any questions, ask a health-care professional. If any questions remain, ask the health-care professional to provide reliable sources of information. Some resources are listed later in this article.
- Know the pros and cons of all of treatment options, and work with a health-care professional to decide on the best options. Understand the treatment plan and what benefits and side effects can be expected.
- Learn about the symptoms. If someone has rheumatoid arthritis, he or she probably has both general discomfort and pain in specific joints. Learn to tell the difference. Pain in a specific joint often results from overuse. Pain in a joint that lasts more than one hour after an activity probably means that that activity was too stressful and should be avoided.
Increase physical activity.
After Several Visits To The Gp With Painful Wrists And Swollen Joints She Was Referred To A
A 37 year old woman recalled that when she was 27 she had developed a pain in her elbow. Her GP thought she had pulled a tendon. The next week she developed a pain on the ball of the foot. The GP thought she had pulled a muscle. Two weeks later the pain seemed to be spreading to other joints, and a different GP decided to send her to the hospital for blood tests.One person noticed that something was wrong when her fingers ‘locked’ as she was lifting a baby out of a cot. Another person became worried when he found it hard to get up from the floor. Someone else noticed a lump on his painful wrist.Some people delayed going to see a GP. One woman, for example, had pains in her elbows, wrists, feet and hips for over two years, but didn’t consult her doctor because she had nothing specific to show him. She finally consulted her GP when she could no longer play badminton.
Other people developed severe symptoms of RA quite suddenly and had to seek urgent help . For example, one man developed an excruciating pain in his left arm and his right hand, so consulted his GP who was ‘confused’ by his symptoms and suggested painkillers. By the end of the week all his joints had ‘stiffened up’ and he could neither wash nor dress himself. He also sweated profusely and was severely sick.
Recommended Reading: What Helps Lower Back Arthritis
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation in the affected parts of the body.
RA mainly attacks the joints, usually many joints at once. RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In a joint with RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness , and deformity .
RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
Your Injuries Seem To Take A Long Time To Heal
Its possible to think you have an injurysuch as a sprained ankle that doesnt seem to healwhen the symptoms are actually due to RA.
This is more common in younger people, says Lisa A. Mandl, MD, MPH, assistant attending rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
One day a patient is playing soccer and the next day her knee is swollen, she says. “I have seen people who have had two arthroscopic surgeries and extensive physical therapy in their knee and they have rheumatoid arthritis.”
Don’t Miss: How To Treat Arthritis In Hands
Whats New In Arthritis Research
Progress is so fast in some areas of arthritis research today that the media often report new findings before the medical journal with the information reaches your doctors office. As a result, you need to know how to evaluate reports on new arthritis research.
Arthritis researchers are looking at four broad areas of research. These include causes, treatments, education and prevention.
Researchers are learning more about certain conditions. For example in osteoarthritis, researchers are looking for signs of early destruction of cartilage and ways to rebuild it. For rheumatoid arthritis and other types that involve inflammation, researchers are trying to understand the steps that lead to inflammation and how it can be slowed or stopped. An initial study suggests that fibromyalgia affects more older people than originally thought and often may be overlooked in this group. Your doctor can tell you about other new research findings. If you would like to take part in arthritis research, ask your doctor for a referral to a study in your area.
Many people help make arthritis research possible. The federal government through its National Institutes of Health is the largest supporter of arthritis research. Drug companies do the most research on new medications.
Recommended Reading: How To Ease Arthritis Pain In Fingers
Your Lifestyle Is More Sedentary And You’re Moving Less
Regular physical activity is necessary for everyone but especially for people with RA. Research has shown that regular cardiovascular exercise and weight training can substantially improve daily function without exacerbating rheumatoid arthritis disease activity. There are numerous health benefits associated with regular physical activity like improved muscle strength and better bone and joint health which all help your aches and pains feel better. But rest is also needed to restore the body from the bouts of intense pain and fatigue that are characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis. But you cant let taking it easy become a way of life. A sedentary lifestyle may eventually lead to increased pain, fatigue, and weakness, and a lower quality of life.
Regular exercise also has another life-enhancing benefit: It helps reduce your odds of developing cardiovascular disease. Taking good care of your ticker is essential for people with rheumatoid arthritis, because heart problems are more prevalent in people who have RA compared with the general population. Its heart disease that kills you, not the RA, says Domingues. Its very important to talk to your primary care doctor or a cardiologist if you have RA to control your risk factors, such as high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.
Also Check: How To Avoid Getting Arthritis
Who Should Diagnose And Treat Ra
A doctor or a team of doctors who specialize in care of RA patients should diagnose and treat RA. This is especially important because the signs and symptoms of RA are not specific and can look like signs and symptoms of other inflammatory joint diseases. Doctors who specialize in arthritis are called rheumatologists, and they can make the correct diagnosis. To find a provider near you, visit the database of rheumatologistsexternal icon on the American College of Rheumatology website.
You Notice Nodules Near Your Joints
These are firm lumps that grow under the skin near the affected joints. They often appear at the back of the elbows, and sometimes people get them in the eyes.
They’re more common in people who have advanced rheumatoid arthritis, but occasionally show up earlier, says Dr. Mandl.
The nodules can at times mimic gout, another form of arthritis.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter
Recommended Reading: How To Tell What Kind Of Arthritis I Have
Accessed On 6th July 2016 Http: //wwweularorg/myuploaddata/files/ra%20class%20slides%20acr: Webpdf
I’ll make the point that the information I present here is obviously not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
But Im hoping to help lead people who may have the disease to an earlier diagnosis and suitable treatment.
By the way, I’ve written many more posts on Rheumatoid Arthritis. Please have a read at this link.
Like this article? Share the love!
Take this test: Do you have Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a lifelong disease. When its treated, it may go away for a little while, but it usually comes back. Its important to see your doctor as soon as symptoms begin. The earlier you start treatment, the better your outcome. Some of the damage from RA is irreversible, so finding the disease and treating it early is very important.
If left untreated, RA can cause other health problems. Your hands may become bent or twisted. Other joints can become deformed. Inflammation will affect your cartilage and bones. Lung and heart problems also can occur. Talk to your doctor if you notice any new symptoms or problems.
Read Also: Can Popping Your Fingers Cause Arthritis
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system which usually fights infection attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake, making them swollen, stiff and painful.
Over time, this can damage the joint itself, the cartilage and nearby bone.
It’s not clear what triggers this problem with the immune system, although you are at an increased risk if you are a woman, you have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis, or you smoke.
Read more about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
How Is It Diagnosed
Your doctor will diagnose RA from your symptoms, a physical examination and various tests. These can include:
- blood tests for inflammation
- blood tests for antibodies . Testing for anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide and rheumatoid factor can help diagnose RA, although not all people with RA will test positive for these antibodies. See the Blood tests information sheet.
- x-rays to see if your joints are being damaged by the disease. X-ray changes are rare in the early stages of RA.
It can be difficult, and often takes time, to diagnose RA as the symptoms can be similar to other types of arthritis. If your doctor suspects you have RA you should be referred to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specialises in arthritis.
Also Check: How Do I Know If I Have Knee Arthritis
Symptoms Affecting The Joints
Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily a condition that affects the joints. It can cause problems in any joint in the body, although the small joints in the hands and feet are often the first to be affected.
Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects the joints symmetrically , but this is not always the case.
The main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis affecting the joints are outlined below.
Symptoms That Affect Your Skin
Some people with RA get rheumatoid nodules. These are bumps under the skin. Most of the time, they arenât painful, and they move easily when you touch them. About one in four people with RA get these skin bumps.
They usually happen on your elbows, but they might show up on other bony areas like:
What Are Medical Treatments For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive inflammatory disease. This means that unless the inflammation is stopped or slowed, the condition will continue to worsen with joint destruction in most people. Although rheumatoid arthritis does occasionally go into remission without treatment, this is rare. Starting treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is strongly recommended. The best medical care combines medication and nondrug approaches.
Nondrug approaches include the following:
Drug approaches include a variety of medications used alone or in combinations.
Imaging Test Results Help Paint A Picture
X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds are all tests that can help track and detect the severity of joint and cartilage damage. Bone erosion and destruction of cartilage can happen quickly within the first two years that you have rheumatoid arthritis, and the damage may continue to develop over time.
You May Like: How To Minimize Arthritis Pain
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Ra
With RA, there are times when symptoms get worse, known as flares, and times when symptoms get better, known as remission.
Signs and symptoms of RA include:
- Pain or aching in more than one joint
- Stiffness in more than one joint
- Tenderness and swelling in more than one joint
- The same symptoms on both sides of the body
- Weight loss