Ra Symptoms: How Do You Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms range from obvious physical symptoms of joint damage and joint deterioration to less obvious signs and symptoms that mimic other illnesses. This is what makes rheumatoid arthritis so difficult for healthcare providers when it comes to diagnosing and prescribing treatment, especially in its early stages.
Early Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints. An estimated 1.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with RA and women are at a higher risk than men. Like many autoimmune diseases, RA can take years to get diagnosed, so identifying the early signs of RA is critical. As RA progresses, it can cause permanent joint deformities, and it can even cause damage in other parts of the body, beyond the joints .
People who recognize the early signs of rheumatoid arthritis and get diagnosed in the initial stages of disease progression can start treatment interventions sooner, may be diagnosed at an earlier stage, and tend to have better health outcomes.
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated
Joint damage generally occurs within the first two years of diagnosis, so its important to see your provider if you notice symptoms. Treating rheumatoid arthritis in this window of opportunity can help prevent long-term consequences.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis include lifestyle changes, therapies, medicine and surgery. Your provider considers your age, health, medical history and how bad your symptoms are when deciding on a treatment.
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Initial Ra Signs: What Are The First Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
You just hit your early 30s. You notice that it is harder to get up every morning than it was even five years ago. Theres a general feeling of stiffness over your entire body that you can never quite escape. You initially wrote it off as just an unfortunate part of the aging process , but now youre starting to think there may be something more serious going on.
Youve also started losing weight, but not because you are dieting nor exercising. You originally thought it was because of you have no appetite or real interest in food, but even when you DO eat it seems to have no effect on your weight. All of this has contributed to a sense of depression something that youve never had to deal with previously. Unfortunately, there IS something serious going on. These are just a few of the major early signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis .
RA is a long-term autoimmune disorder that typically affects a persons joints. What usually begins as a warm feeling or swollen hands can quickly turn into pain that just wont go away. Internally, the disease can also manifest itself as a low red blood cell count, inflammation of the lungs or even inflammation of the heart.
A crucial part of seeking appropriate medical treatment as quickly as possible involves knowing what to look for and what to be concerned about. Most importantly, it is essential to know when things are getting serious.
Watch Our Video About What Rheumatoid Arthritis Is
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that can cause pain, swelling and stiffness in joints.
It is what is known as an auto-immune condition. This means that the immune system, which is the bodys natural self-defence system, gets confused and starts to attack your bodys healthy tissues. In rheumatoid arthritis, the main way it does this is with inflammation in your joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects around 400,000 adults aged 16 and over in the UK. It can affect anyone of any age. It can get worse quickly, so early diagnosis and intensive treatment are important. The sooner you start treatment, the more effective its likely to be.
To understand how rheumatoid arthritis develops, it helps to understand how a normal joint works.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone differently. In some people, joint symptoms develop over several years. In other people, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms progress rapidly. Many people have time with symptoms and then time with no symptoms .
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness in more than one joint.
- Stiffness, especially in the morning or after sitting for long periods.
- Pain and stiffness in the same joints on both sides of your body.
Early Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
In the early stage, there are red, swelling, heat, pain and dysfunction. In the late stage, there are different degrees of stiffness and deformity, and bone and skeletal muscle atrophy. It is a disease with high disability rate.
From the point of view of pathological changes, rheumatoid arthritis is a kind of extensive inflammatory disease, which mainly involves the synovium , followed by serosa, heart, lung and eye and other connective tissue. Therefore, in addition to the above manifestations of arthritis, patients can also have other systemic manifestations, such as fever, fatigue, weight loss, subcutaneous nodules, pericarditis, pleurisy, peripheral neuropathy, eye lesions, arteritis, etc.
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What Are The Early Signs Of Ra
Knowing that an early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is correlated with more successful health outcomes, recognizing the early signs is a vital first step. Research by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association shows that, on average, it takes 4.6 years for someone to get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, with RA diagnosis taking a likely range of 3-7 years.
The road for people with RA to receive a diagnosis can be long and challenging, so the better you can document and describe your symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, the sooner you can talk with your doctor and get help.
In addition to being aware of the specific personal risk factors for RA, here are five early signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis that you can be on the lookout for:
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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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.
Nutritional Supplements And Dietary Changes
There is no strong evidence to suggest that specific dietary changes can help improve rheumatoid arthritis, although some people with rheumatoid arthritis feel that their symptoms get worse after they have eaten certain foods.
If you think this may be the case for you, it may be useful to try avoiding problematic foods for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve. However, it is important to ensure your overall diet is still healthy and balanced.
There is also little evidence supporting the use of supplements in rheumatoid arthritis, although some can be useful in preventing side effects of medications you may be taking. For example, calcium and vitamin D supplements may help prevent osteoporosis if you are taking steroids and folic acid supplements may help prevent some of the side effects of methotrexate.
However, there is some evidence to suggest that taking fish oil supplements may help reduce joint pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
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What Are First Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The 15 early RA symptoms and signs discussed in this article include the following:
- Loss of joint range of motion.
Likewise, how do you know if you have arthritis in your hands?
What are the symptoms of arthritis in the fingers?
Symptoms of arthritis in the hands may include:
- Pain in some or all of the joints, including joints of the fingers, wrists, and thumbs.
- The growth of bony knobs on finger joints.
- Numbness in fingers.
- Swollen, red, or warm joints.
- Stiffness in the fingers, especially in the morning in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis.
Can I have arthritis in one finger?
From Early Signs To Action
Because symptoms of RA flare and remit, tracking and documenting your symptoms can be beneficial. Not only does it help raise your own personal awareness, but over time, it can help you have a more productive conversation with your healthcare provider about your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life. You might also gain insight into factors that improve or worsen your symptoms.
If you and your doctor suspect that you might have rheumatoid arthritis, there are tests they can run to help with the diagnosis and medications they can prescribe to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
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Home Remedies For Managing Ra
In addition to medication and surgery, patients may want to ask their doctor about simple therapies they can do at home, such as exercise and diet.
Low impact exercises can strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. These include walking, water aerobics, swimming and yoga.
According to a 2012 review published in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine by Shirley Telles and Nilkamal Singh, yoga has shown some promise in reducing pain, improving function and providing mental health benefits.
A small 2019 study by researcher Surabhi Gautam and colleagues published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience found that yoga eased physical symptoms and improved mental health.
Evidence suggests that eating a healthy diet with anti-inflammatory foods can ease RA symptoms. There isnt a specific regimen to follow, but a 2018 review recommended the Mediterranean diet and fish oil for people with RA, Today reported.
In general, keeping a healthy weight and getting the proper nutrition helps manage inflammation that can worsen RA.
Foods that may manage RA symptoms include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna
- Fruits and vegetables
Getting Enough Sleep
People with RA often suffer from fatigue and pain that can get worse during flare-ups. Make sure to get plenty of rest.
Hot and Cold Therapy
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When To See A Healthcare Provider
The current diagnostic criteria for RA depends on:
- Which joints are affected
- Number of joints affected
- Presence or absence of a rheumatoid factor or anti-citrullinated antibody
- Duration of symptoms lasting longer or shorter than six weeks
If you have been experiencing joint pain and stiffness that’s worse in the mornings and lasts for more than one hour, along with any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, it may be time to seek the expertise of a healthcare provider.
Rapid and accurate RA diagnosis can lead to proper management and treatment of the disease, which can ultimately slow or halt progression and lead to symptom relief. Undiagnosed or untreated RA can lead to permanent disability and premature death.
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What Happens In A Joint Affected By Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system can cause inflammation inside a joint or a number of joints. Inflammation is normally an important part of how your immune system works. It allows the body to send extra fluid and blood to a part of the body under attack from an infection. For example, if you have a cut that gets infected, the skin around it can become swollen and a different colour.
However, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, this inflammation in the joint is unnecessary and causes problems.
When the inflammation goes down, the capsule around the synovium remains stretched and cant hold the joint in its proper position. This can cause the joint to become unstable and move into unusual positions.
The following can play a part in why someone has rheumatoid arthritis:
Symptoms By Body Part
The most commonly affected areas during the onset of RA are the small joints in your hands and feet. This is where you may first feel stiffness and an ache.
Its also possible for RA inflammation to affect your knees and hips. Because the disease presents differently in different people, it can go on to affect almost any joint.
Your organs are another area that can be disrupted by RA inflammation:
- Your heart muscle can become damaged.
- Your lungs can become scarred.
- Blood vessel damage can lead to subsequent skin and nerve issues.
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What Are The Less Common Forms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis can begin in less common forms. For example, it can begin with the involvement of only a single joint or a few joints. Sometimes, this can later evolve to the more common presentation of many joints on both sides of the body.
- Rarely, the earliest symptom of rheumatoid disease is inflammation of a body area that does not even involve a joint. For example, the lining of the lungs can become inflamed to cause pleurisy many months before arthritis develops.
- Occasionally, only a few joints are involved and the doctor may suspect another type of inflammatory arthritis. Again, this can sometimes only later evolve to become the more typical symmetrical polyarthritis by including many joints on both sides of the body.
- The caveat is that by recognizing the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis rheumatologists and their patients can address the disease early, thereby affording optimal outcomes for those affected.
Swelling And Redness Of Joints
Rheumatoid arthritis damages the lining or cartilage of your joints, causing them to appear red and warm to the touch as the inflammation flares up.
The inflammation causes the blood vessels in the surrounding skin to expand, which results in redness.
More blood flows into this area because the veins are wider, giving the skin a crimson colour.
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Joint Redness & Warmth
When joints are swollen due to RA, it can sometimes produce an isolated area of redness on the skin. This is because the skins capillaries widen due to the inflammation within the joint capsule, making them more visible.
Additionally, when joints have become inflamed as a result of this disease, it is possible to feel warmth on the joint even if no redness is occurring. Thats why its important to pay attention to how your body feels as some RAs symptoms arent noticeable to the eye.
What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Early signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis come on gradually, often before joint pain or stiffness is noticeable, and may include fatigue, muscle pain, fever, weight loss, numbness and tingling in the hands, and feeling unwell.
When joint pain and stiffness begins, it usually occurs in the small joints, such as those joints at the base of the fingers, the middle of the fingers, and the base of the toes, or may occur in a single, large joint, such as the knee or shoulder, or it may shift from one joint to another
Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body . As the condition progresses, joint pain and inflammation become more prominent and symptoms include:
Joint pain and stiffness that may affect the:
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Will Changing My Diet Help My Rheumatoid Arthritis
When combined with the treatments and medications your provider recommends, changes in diet may help reduce inflammation and other symptoms of RA. But it wont cure you. You can talk with your doctor about adding good fats and minimizing bad fats, salt and processed carbohydrates. No herbal or nutritional supplements, like collagen, can cure rheumatoid arthritis. These dietary changes are safer and most successful when monitored by your rheumatologist.
But there are lifestyle changes you can make that may help relieve your symptoms. Your rheumatologist may recommend weight loss to reduce stress on inflamed joints.
People with rheumatoid arthritis also have a higher risk of coronary artery disease. High blood cholesterol can respond to changes in diet. A nutritionist can recommend specific foods to eat or avoid to reach a desirable cholesterol level.
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.
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Theme : Joint Stiffness
General stiffness was less commonly described across the literature, and where it was described, descriptions were brief . Also, there were no descriptions of the meaning of stiffness, nor were attempts found to deconstruct the concept of stiffness at RA onset. On occasion, stiffness was briefly mentioned in combination with other symptoms such as fatigue, morning stiffness and swollen knee . At onset, stiffness was a symptom that could be bothersome at night because it prevented sleep .
I stayed with a family, and in London they did so many things with us. But I noticed only afterwards how much stiffness and rigidity there was .
Aches and pains in the morning were described by a participant in the study by Griffiths and Carr however, the word stiffness was not specifically used .
In my own mind I knew I had something like that, because my joints were aching and creaking, and I was full of aches and pains in the morning when I got up .
However, in 3 studies, stiffness was a specific problem for patients . In these cases, stiffness was notable because it was localized to a specific area of the body, e.g., the shoulder or neck . In another instance, palindromic episodes of stiffness and swelling were described .
I didn’t really notice that I had symptoms. I had a stiff shoulder I had a heavy coat I had trouble getting it on and off my daughter had helped me taking it off already but I needed to get it back on .