Warning Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million Americans, and it’s three times more common in women. While RA shares symptoms with other conditions, if you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, speak to your doctor.
, or RA, is an autoimmune disease that causes a person’s immune system to attack his or her own tissue lining the joints.
While the cause of RA is unclear, getting the right diagnosis as early as possible offers your best chance of limiting joint damage as well as mobility issues.
Here are symptoms to look out for from , a at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City:
1. Joint Pain
Tenderness or pain of the joints is one of the most common symptoms among patients with RA. While there are other disorders that can cause this, the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis is “usually symmetric so itll affect both hands and both wrists,” according to Dr. Gordon.
Early morning stiffness that can last from thirty minutes to two hours is another frequently cited issue. While the symptom can sometimes be confused for an injury, it’s important to consult a rheumatologist if the pain is unexplained.
Puffy or swollen hands, wrists, or feet can be a sign of the inflammation that occurs with RA. “It can really become enlarged and fluid can be present in the joint space itself. You can also see fluid in the knees and the ankles,” says Gordon.
5. Loss of Function
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Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Early Symptoms: Joint Pain Stiffness Numbness
The pain of early RA is unique. Your joints will hurt in a way they never did before, and feel puffy and tight and hot to the touch, says Dr. Manno. Moving the fingers and wrists can feel like they need a quart of oil, she adds.
Patients often describe the pain of the toes and feet as walking on marbles. Affected joints are generally stiff for about 30 minutes or longer in the morning.
Some people develop a complication of RA, carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause feelings of numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers, making it even more difficult to use them.
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How Can I Tell If My Fatigue Is A Sign Of Rheumatoid Arthritis And Not Something Else
It is common for people with RA to have symptoms like fatigue or low energy. Often, these symptoms can start before the joint symptoms, which can make the diagnosis tricky to pin down.
Fatigue can have many causes. It can also be easily dismissed either by you or by your provider. Here are some signs you should get your fatigue looked into:
It cant be explained by anything else going on in your life.
It doesnt improve with rest or sleep.
Its getting worse.
If your fatigue is a sign of RA, then you may also have symptoms affecting your joints that fit with an RA diagnosis. Your provider should take a full history of your symptoms and medical past, and a physical exam.
Blood work can be useful, particularly to check for inflammatory markers. These are the tests mentioned above, called ESR and CRP. If these levels are higher than normal, it is possible that your fatigue could be related to chronic inflammation. However, many inflammatory disorders can cause high inflammation levels and fatigue, so youll need to follow up with other tests to confirm the RA diagnosis.
What Are The Early Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
What are the early signs of rheumatoid arthritis? Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the more common forms of autoimmune arthritis, affecting about 1% of the adult population. This may not seem quite common, but in the world of rheumatology this is actually quite common. Women tend to be affected more than men 2-3:1 and the disease tend to manifest between the ages of 40 60. However, it can also happen in young adults and older individuals. When it happens in children, we call it juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include the following:
- Stiffness, especially in the morning or after sitting for long periods
Rheumatoid arthritis affects each person differently. In most people, joint symptoms may develop gradually over several years. In other people, rheumatoid arthritis may proceed rapidly. A few people may have rheumatoid arthritis for a limited period of time and then go into remission .
Cartilage normally acts as a shock absorber between the joints. Uncontrolled inflammation causes the destruction and wearing down of the cartilage, which leads to joint deformities. Eventually, the bone itself erodes, potentially leading to fusion of the joint . This process is aided by specific cells and substances of the immune system, which are produced in the joints but also circulate and cause symptoms throughout the body.
You Might Be Aware Of Joint Pain But Its Important To Be Aware Of The Other Ra Symptoms That Can Help Clinch A Diagnosis
Aches and pains are a common part of life at every age, and can occur for many reasons an especially tough workout, too much snow shoveling, lifting something the wrong way, dancing too enthusiastically, or engaging in repetitive hand motions like typing or knitting.
But pain is also the most common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis , a chronic, inflammatory disorder in which the bodys own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes that surround the joints. According to the American College of Rheumatology, RA is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis, affecting more than 1.3 million Americans 75 percent of whom are women. The disease usually strikes first between the ages of 30 and 60.
The symptoms of RA may be obvious or not, and can sometimes mimic other diseases, especially in the early stages. The most common symptoms of RA such as pain, swelling, and tenderness around the joints tend to come on gradually. People may discount minor pains or morning achiness as just a sign of aging or indication of an overuse injury. It may take a while before someone suspects that RA is the cause of their discomfort. But rheumatoid arthritis has many other symptoms as well, and recognizing what they are can help patients get diagnosed and treated as early as possible, so they can prevent or minimize permanent damage to the joints, and lead active, less-painful lives.
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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.
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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.
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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA results from a problem with the immune system. When a persons immune system is healthy, it helps to fight infection. In people with RA, the immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in the lining of their joint, resulting in inflammation of the joints, making them swollen, stiff, and painful.
People who have RA will have some periods where they experience no symptoms and other times when the symptoms flare up.
Currently, there is no cure for RA, but proper treatment and moderate exercise may help reduce flares. If RA is left untreated, the joints, cartilage, and bones in affected areas can become damaged.
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Loss Of Joint Range Of Motion
As the joints of rheumatoid arthritis become more inflamed with active disease, they tend to have an incomplete range of motion. The range of motion is limited by the swelling within the joint. This is typically associated with weakness in the involved areas.
Joints affected by longstanding rheumatoid arthritis commonly lose range of motion permanently.
Who Gets Rheumatoid Arthritis
Anyone can get RA. One study found that about 1 in 200 people in the U.S. were treated for RA over a 10-year period. Women are about twice as likely as men to get the disease. Older adults are the group most likely to be diagnosed with RA, but many people get diagnosed in middle age. It is less commonly diagnosed in young adults and children.
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Symptoms That Come And Go
It is common for RA symptoms to come and go. This fluctuation or “flaring” of symptoms can make diagnosis more challenging to notice and pin down. You may go through periods where you experience joint symptoms and periods where they disappear entirely, and you feel fine.While feeling better is welcome, this remitting of RA symptoms can be frustrating and difficult to pinpoint, especially when you’re ready to go to the doctor. This is when prioritizing monitoring your symptoms and diet can be helpful in deducing what is triggering your flare.
Disfunction Of The Joints
RA can make it difficult to carry out daily tasks, particularly if youre having a flare-up. Dr. Bykerk states why you might have difficulty slicing meat, opening a milk carton, or typing on a keyboard. In case you have problems with your knees, you can find it difficult to climb stairs. Dr. Shlotzhauer experienced the same thing. She claims there was a time when she wanted to use a chair lift.
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Loss Of Joint Function
Because rheumatoid arthritis leads to pain, swelling, and tenderness of the involved joints, there is the loss of joint function. The swelling and sensitivity impede the full motion and stability of the joint and it becomes incapable of carrying the movement with confidence, balance, and completeness. This loss of joint function leads to limping, lack of coordination, loss of grip and dexterity, and disability.
/8decrease In The Range Of Motion
Joint stiffness and tenderness may also make it difficult for the person to move freely. In the initial phase of rheumatoid arthritis, a person may have difficulty in moving the wrist back and forth and performing exercises. With time the disease will progress and start damaging their ligaments and tendons, making it difficult to bend and straighten them.
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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.
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Early Detection And Diagnosis
As with most diseases, early detection and diagnosis are crucial for being able to treat symptoms, manage pain, and slow progression. An early diagnosis of RA can help you and your team of physicians and specialists put together an individualized treatment plan so that you can continue living a high quality of life.
Early on, you will want to discuss your case with a rheumatologist or RA specialist who can provide you with the treatment you need to delay the diseases progression. Generally, early diagnosis treatment is aggressive and targeted to properly manage the disease and prevent it from progressing.
If your RA was diagnosed in the early stage when symptoms first appeared, your chances of achieving longer periods of remission typically increase drastically. Thats not to say you wont experience flare-ups. Early diagnosis simply helps manage the disease and cannot guarantee the complete elimination of symptoms.
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Joint Pain And Swelling
Another early sign of RA is joint pain and stiffness and swelling in your joints. As the inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis progresses, more and more tissues get damaged. The initial warmth and redness you first experienced may progress to increased swelling and pain in the affected joints.
Joint pain and swelling are common in many forms of arthritis. Still, in general, the joints affected by RA tend to be “soft, warm, boggy, and tender” . And while it may not present symmetrically in the earliest stages, RA tends to progress to a symmetric arthritis, where the same joints on both sides of the body are affected.
When To Seek Treatment
The following are general guidelines of when to seek treatment for your RA progression:
When you first suspect symptoms Regularly during the first few years of diagnosis If you suspect you are experiencing progressive rheumatoid arthritis If you feel your condition is worsening in any way or new symptoms appear
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Measures To Reduce Bone Loss
Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis. The use of prednisone further increases the risk of bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women.
You can do the following to help minimize the bone loss associated with steroid therapy:
- Use the lowest possible dose of glucocorticoids for the shortest possible time, when possible, to minimize bone loss.
- Get an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D, either in the diet or by taking supplements.
- Use medications that can reduce bone loss, including that which is caused by glucocorticoids.
- Control rheumatoid arthritis itself with appropriate medications prescribed by your doctor.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Causes Symptoms Treatments And More
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis that can causes joint pain, swelling and damage. Learn what causes RA and how to treat it.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint inflammation and pain. It happens when the immune system doesnt work properly and attacks the lining of the joints . The disease commonly affects the hands, knees or ankles, and usually the same joint on both sides of the body. But sometimes, RA causes problems in other parts of the body as well, such as the eyes, heart and circulatory system and/or lungs. For unknown reasons, more women than men get RA, and it usually develops in middle age. Having a family member with RA increases the odds of developing RA.
In a healthy person, the immune system fights invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. With an autoimmune disease like RA, the immune system mistakes the bodys cells for foreign invaders and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack, in the case of RA, the synovium. Thats the tissue lining around a joint that produces a fluid to help the joint move smoothly. The inflamed synovium gets thicker and makes the joint area feel painful and tender, look red and swollen and moving the joint may be difficult.
Researchers arent sure why some people develop RA. They think that these individuals have certain genes that are activated by a trigger in the environment, like a virus or bacteria, or physical or emotional stress or some other external factor.
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Demographics Of Rheumatoid Arthritis In The United States
Approximately 1.5 million people have rheumatoid arthritis in this country, with women receiving a diagnosis three times as often as men do. The typical age of onset for women is between 30 and 60 years old. Men tend to develop joint pain and other common symptoms past middle age. Although the risk of developing the disease increases if a family member has it, most people who receive a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis have no family history at all.
Not All Patients With ‘early Polyarthritis’ Develop Persistent Disease
When a patient with inflammatory arthritis cannot definitely be labelled as having RA, it becomes important to decide whether the arthritis is likely to remit or to persist. Clearly, if spontaneous remission seems likely, the patient should be spared potentially toxic DMARD therapy. On the other hand, a patient with persistent inflammation should be started promptly on DMARDs since the condition may represent RA in evolution. From the Norfolk Arthritis Register there is evidence that an overwhelming majority of patients with persistent polyarthritis in due course come to satisfy diagnostic criteria for RA . Thus, since joint damage and functional loss occur early, most patients develop these irreversible changes before a definite diagnosis of RA can be made.
How can the clinician predict persistence of disease? Several research groups have tried to identify pointers in patients with early arthritis but their results are not easily combined because of heterogeneity in populations, predictive factors used and duration of follow-up. Among the predictive factors suggested, the most useful seems to be disease duration exceeding 12 weeks: a patient who has had inflammatory joint symptoms for this long is very unlikely to experience a spontaneous remission. Other features suggesting the unlikelihood of remission are positive tests for rheumatoid factor or cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies and the presence of erosions on radiographs.
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