Sunday, May 19, 2024

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Fatigue

Rheumatoid arthritis – causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology

Everyones experience of rheumatoid arthritis is a little different. But many people with RA say that fatigue is among the worst symptoms of the disease.

Living with chronic pain can be exhausting. And fatigue can make it more difficult to manage your pain. Its important to pay attention to your body and take breaks before you get too tired.

What are rheumatoid arthritis flare symptoms?

The symptoms of a rheumatoid arthritis flare arent much different from the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. But people with RA have ups and downs. A flare is a time when you have significant symptoms after feeling better for a while. With treatment, youll likely have periods of time when you feel better. Then, stress, changes in weather, certain foods or infections trigger a period of increased disease activity.

Although you cant prevent flares altogether, there are steps you can take to help you manage them. It might help to write your symptoms down every day in a journal, along with whats going on in your life. Share this journal with your rheumatologist, who may help you identify triggers. Then you can work to manage those triggers.

What Is The Difference

Rheumatoid arthritis vs. osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are both common causes of pain and stiffness in joints. But they have different causes. In osteoarthritis, inflammation and injury break down your cartilage over time. In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks the lining of your joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis vs. gout

Rheumatoid arthritis and gout are both painful types of arthritis. Gout symptoms include intense pain, redness, stiffness, swelling and warmth in your big toe or other joints. In gout, uric acid crystals cause inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis, its your immune system that causes joint damage.

How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Screened And Diagnosed

A diagnosis of RA is based on a combination of several factors, as there is no single test that can show if you have this condition or not. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and the issues you have been facing. A physical examination will also be conducted to see the location and symmetry of painful joints. Apart from these, your doctor will order certain tests to help confirm a diagnosis.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Joint pain at rest and when moving, along with tenderness, swelling, and warmth of the joint.
  • Joint stiffness that lasts longer than 30 minutes.
  • Feeling unusually tired or having low energy.
  • Occasional low-grade fever.
  • Loss of appetite.

Rheumatoid arthritis can happen in any joint however, it is more common in the wrist, hands, and feet. The symptoms usually happen on both sides of the body. For example, if you have RA in the right hand, you likely also have it in the left hand.

In some people, RA starts slowly, affecting just a few joints. However, if it is not treated or the treatments are not working, RA can get worse and affect more joints. This can lead to more damage and disability. At times, RA symptoms get worse in flares due to a trigger such as:

  • Suddenly stopping medications.

Medications To Manage Symptoms

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Some drugs can help relieve symptoms and slow the diseases progression.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are available from pharmacies over the counter . Examples include Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. Long-term use and high doses can lead to side effects, including:

  • high blood pressure
  • kidney and liver problems

Corticosteroids reduce pain and inflammation and may help slow joint damage, but they cannot cure RA. If NSAIDs do not work, a doctor may inject a steroid into the joint. Relief is usually rapid, but the effect is variable. It can last a few weeks or months, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Corticosteroids can help with acute symptoms or short-term flare-ups. However, a doctor will limit these injections to no more than three times per year because of their impact on the soft tissue structures around the joints. More frequent injections can potentially damage these structures or cause them to tear off from where they attach to bone.

Learn more about steroid injections here.

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Blood Tests For Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are several types of blood tests that help your healthcare provider or rheumatologist determine whether you have RA. These tests include:

  • Rheumatoid factor test. The RF blood test checks for a protein called rheumatoid factor. High levels of rheumatoid factor are associated with autoimmune diseases, especially RA.
  • Anticitrullinated peptide antibody test . This test looks for an antibody thats associated with RA. People who have this antibody usually have the disease. However, not everyone with RA tests positive for this antibody. The anti-CCP test is more specific for RA than the RF blood test, and often is positive before the RF test.
  • Antinuclear antibody test. The antinuclear antibody panel tests your immune system to see if its producing antibodies to the nucleus of cells. Your body often makes ANA antibodies as a response to many different types of autoimmune conditions, including RA.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate. The ESR test helps determine the degree of inflammation in your body. The result tells your doctor whether inflammation is present. However, it doesnt indicate the cause or site of the inflammation.
  • C-reactive protein test. A severe infection or significant inflammation anywhere in your body can trigger your liver to make C-reactive protein. High levels of this inflammatory marker are associated with RA.

So What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Exactly

Rheumatoid arthritis is a specific type of arthritis that typically affects jointshands, wrists, kneesbut can also damage a wide variety of internal systems, such as your circulatory system. Rheumatoid arthritis initially affects the lining of joints and connective tissue , causing swelling that, in the long-term, can result in bone erosion and joint damage.¹

RA is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the bodys natural immune system works against itself. Immunity is the bodys natural way of defending you from a foreign invader, like a virus, a bacteria, or an injury. When the immune system is persistently activated, it triggers chronic inflammation.

For example, when you fall and hit your knee, it will swell . This swelling tells the knee that tissue has been damaged and repair is needed. Such chronic inflammation, if left unchecked, can lead to persistent and progressive joint damage as with RA.

Rheumatoid arthritis is not uncommon. According to the American College of Rheumatology , more than 1.3 million Americans have the condition and the majority of them are women . In fact, 1% to 3% of women may develop rheumatoid arthritis in their lifetime. Typically, the disease shows up between ages 30 and 50 but it can develop at any age.²

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases,³ rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Most common symptoms affect the joints:

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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.

Recipes To Help Calm Or Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis: causes and early warning signs

These delicious plant-based recipes contain healthy and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and nourishing antioxidants and micronutrients. Plus, they use highly supportive plant foods like cruciferous veggies and nourishing anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric to support a healthy gut, so you can get back to enjoying life to the fullest!

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What You Can Do Now

During the early stages, symptoms can be managed at home by keeping active, eating healthy, and engaging in social activities that help keep your mood positive.

Isolating yourself from social interaction will increase your risk of developing RA-related depression later. Research shows that the risk of developing depression is higher in people living with RA, particularly if they are under 40 years of age.

As your symptoms progress, medication and physical therapy can help you maintain a healthy level of mobility. Staying active is key, as this can help you manage your condition and boost your overall well-being. Going for a walk, visiting a neighbor, or even hitting the gym for low-impact exercise are all good options.

The key to treating RA and preventing complications is to see your doctor at the first sign of joint pain and inflammation. If youve already been diagnosed with RA and your symptoms have worsened, you should immediately make a follow-up appointment. Your doctor can tweak your treatment plan as needed and provide personalized guidance.

When To Get Medical Advice

See a GP if you think you have symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, so they can try to identify the underlying cause.

Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis quickly is important, because early treatment can prevent it getting worse and reduce the risk of joint damage.

Find out more about diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis.

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Will I Need Surgery For Arthritis

Healthcare providers usually only recommend surgery for certain severe cases of arthritis. These are cases that havent improved with conservative treatments. Surgical options include:

  • Fusion: Two or more bones are permanently fused together. Fusion immobilizes a joint and reduces pain caused by movement.
  • Joint replacement: A damaged, arthritic joint gets replaced with an artificial joint. Joint replacement preserves joint function and movement. Examples include ankle replacement, hip replacement, knee replacement and shoulder replacement.

What Types Of Lifestyle Changes Can Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Having a lifelong illness like rheumatoid arthritis may make you feel like you dont have much control over your quality of life. While there are aspects of RA that you cant control, there are things you can do to help you feel the best that you can.

Such lifestyle changes include:


When your joints are inflamed, the risk of injury to your joints and nearby soft tissue structures is high. This is why you need to rest your inflamed joints. But its still important for you to exercise. Maintaining a good range of motion in your joints and good fitness overall are important in coping with RA.


Pain and stiffness can slow you down. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis become inactive. But inactivity can lead to a loss of joint motion and loss of muscle strength. These, in turn, decrease joint stability and increase pain and fatigue.

Regular exercise can help prevent and reverse these effects. You might want to start by seeing a physical or occupational therapist for advice about how to exercise safely. Beneficial workouts include:

  • Range-of-motion exercises to preserve and restore joint motion.
  • Exercises to increase strength.
  • Exercises to increase endurance .

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Starting And Raising A Family

If you are taking medicines for rheumatoid arthritis, let your healthcare team know if you want to start a family or if you are worried about becoming pregnant while on medication.

Some medications, such as methotrexate, leflunomide and biological treatments, should not be taken by men or women while they are trying for a baby. The doctors and nurses will work with you to ensure your rheumatoid arthritis is controlled while you are trying to get pregnant.

Babies and young children are physically and mentally demanding for any parent, but particularly so if you have rheumatoid arthritis. If you are struggling to cope, it may help to talk to other people in the same situation as you. You may also be able to get additional support from your health visitor or occupational therapist to help you manage your young family.

Favorite Online Support Network For Ra

The Live Yes! Arthritis Network, from the Arthritis Foundation, provides a network of support with the aim of helping people live their best lives. By exchanging ideas, tips, and experiences with others in provided online forums covering a variety of topics, the network empowers people with RA to gain confidence in dealing with their disease proactively.

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Ra Symptoms In Your Joints

RA almost always affects your joints. It may take a few weeks or months for the first signs to show. The inflammation it causes often leads to these three hallmark symptoms:

  • Pain.Inflammation inside a joint makes it hurt whether youâre moving it or not. Over time, it causes damage and pain.
  • Swelling. Fluid in the joint makes it puffy and tender.
  • Tenderness. It hurts when you move or push on a joint.

Other RA symptoms include:

  • Stiffness. The joint is harder to use and doesnât move as well as it should. Itâs especially common in the morning. Although many people with other forms of arthritis have stiff joints in the morning, it takes people with rheumatoid arthritis more than an hour before their joints feel loose.
  • Redness and warmth. The joints may be warmer and have color changes related to the inflammation.

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What Are The Risk Factors For Ra

Rheumatoid Arthritis, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Researchers have studied a number of genetic and environmental factors to determine if they change persons risk of developing RA.

Characteristics that increase risk

  • Age. RA can begin at any age, but the likelihood increases with age. The onset of RA is highest among adults in their sixties.
  • Sex. New cases of RA are typically two-to-three times higher in women than men.
  • Genetics/inherited traits. People born with specific genes are more likely to develop RA. These genes, called HLA class II genotypes, can also make your arthritis worse. The risk of RA may be highest when people with these genes are exposed to environmental factors like smoking or when a person is obese.
  • Smoking. Multiple studies show that cigarette smoking increases a persons risk of developing RA and can make the disease worse.
  • History of live births. Women who have never given birth may be at greater risk of developing RA.
  • Early Life Exposures. Some early life exposures may increase risk of developing RA in adulthood. For example, one study found that children whose mothers smoked had double the risk of developing RA as adults. Children of lower income parents are at increased risk of developing RA as adults.
  • Obesity. Being obese can increase the risk of developing RA. Studies examining the role of obesity also found that the more overweight a person was, the higher his or her risk of developing RA became.

Characteristics that can decrease risk

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What Are The Treatment Options For Myositis

The primary goals of myositis treatment are to:

  • Reduce muscle inflammation
  • Limit muscle damage
  • Restore muscle function

Additionally, the skin involvement and other organs affected by the disease process must be addressed. Myositis can be treated with the same or a combination of medications that are used to treat RA.

Treatment options for myositis

  • Corticosteroids
  • Oral prednisone is the most used medication in this class, but intravenous corticosteroids can be used to control the disease quickly during an acute flare.
  • Steroids suppress inflammation in the muscles and other parts of the body, but they must be administered in high doses at first to control the disease.
  • Corticosteroids, when properly administered, improve disease activity in 90 percent of people and could be the only form of therapy required in more than half of all people with myositis. When a response is observed, the dose can be gradually decreased to reduce side effects.
  • Biologic response modifiers, such as tumor necrosis factor -blocking drugs
  • Inhibit certain types of white blood cells. Have not been well studied but are reported to produce impressive results in a small number of people.
  • Target specific parts of the immune system thought to be involved in myositis.
  • Are widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. However, these are considered experimental medications to treat myositis until better evidence establishing their role to treat myositis is available.
  • What Can I Do Right Now

  • Tame an RA Flare. Try hot and cold packs to decrease pain sensation ask for help with daily tasks that are too difficult to do during a balance rest and activity try exercises.²

  • Check in on your mental health. Seek out resources to help with emotional difficulties, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness , Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

  • Find an experienced rheumatologist. The ACR allows you to search by zip code. You can also contact the ACR the US association of rheumatologists.

  • Prep for your next doc visit. Write down questions to ask your doctor use a diary to track your symptoms document what activities make you feel worse or better, and which activities cause pain.

  • Be an Advocate. Help others with RA by participating in a number of activities, including Tell Your Story, volunteering, or joining advocacy ventures.

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    But Wait Ra Gets More Complicated: Symptoms And Causes

    Rheumatoid arthritis can be complex. The specific reasons why some people develop it and others dont remain unknown. However, the medical community does know what may increase the risk and likelihood of developing the disease, such as having more levels of whats called rheumatoid factor in your blood .

    In addition, while RA is considered a chronic condition meaning it has no cure and will never fully go away how severe the symptoms get differ from person to person, and flares may wax and wane. For example, when the disease is more active , symptoms become worse. When symptoms disappear, either on their own or with treatment, patients go into remission.³

    Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Since RA is an autoimmune disorder that attacks ones own body tissues, researchers are focusing on why these mistakes occur.

    One factor that may play a role in the development of RA is that many people with the condition have higher levels of an antibody in their immune system: enter rheumatoid factor or RF for short. Low levels of this antibody can be present in healthy individuals or in people with other inflammatory conditions, but individuals with RA have higher levels of RF, as well as another antibody, the anti-CCP antibody. Both antibodies are signs of hyperactive immunity doctors use them to help confirm the diagnosis of RA.

    Despite the unknowns about the causes of RA, there are some risk factors for developing this condition:¹

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