Symptoms And Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Onset of rheumatoid arthritis is usually insidious, often beginning with systemic and joint symptoms. Systemic symptoms include early morning stiffness of affected joints, generalized afternoon fatigue and malaise, anorexia, generalized weakness, and occasionally low-grade fever. Joint symptoms include pain, swelling, and stiffness. Occasionally, the disease begins abruptly, mimicking an acute viral syndrome.
The disease progresses most rapidly during the first 6 years, particularly the first year 80% of patients develop some permanent joint abnormalities within 10 years. The course is unpredictable in individual patients.
Joint symptoms are characteristically symmetric. Typically, stiffness lasts > 60 minutes after rising in the morning but may occur after any prolonged inactivity . Involved joints become tender, with erythema, warmth, swelling, and limitation of motion. The joints primarily involved include the following:
Wrists and the index and middle metacarpophalangeal joints
Proximal interphalangeal joints
What Tests Are Done For Rheumatoid Arthritis
The diagnosis of RA is based on a person’s clinical signs and symptoms, but it is supported by laboratory tests, including X-rays and various blood tests, including but not exclusively the rheumatoid factor, anti-CCP.
If a person exhibits a clinical pattern of symptoms and signs that suggestive they have rheumatoid arthritis, a variety X-rays and blood tests will be performed. Certain blood tests can help to confirm the diagnosis, but a negative test does not necessarily mean a person does not have RA it.
Approximately half of people developing rheumatoid arthritis will have blood test results that demonstrate inflammation. These tests are called acute phase reactants. Examples of these are an erythrocyte sedimentation rate and a C-reactive protein . These tests are performed to assess the activity of the disease in combination with an assessment of the patients symptoms and physical findings.
Conditions That Can Mimic Ra
Another reason RA may be tough to diagnose in early stages is that some initial signs and symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from other conditions. Viral infections, other kinds of arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases may all be mistaken for RA, depending on which specific constellation of symptoms you have. Its important to learn about these different diseases so you can be sure to be as specific as possible when describing your medical history to your doctor.
Some of the conditions that mimic rheumatoid arthritis include:
Also Check: Back Arthritis Remedies
Risk Factors For Heart Disease In People With Ra
People with RA share certain risk factors for heart disease with the general population, including:
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Side effects from drugs
Dr. Navarro-Millán explained that reducing inflammation from RA is key to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Having rheumatoid arthritis under control, where there is almost no swelling in your joints, no stiffness in your joints, is important in order to decrease this risk, she said.
The Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis And Osteoarthritis
Like RA, people with osteoarthritis can experience painful and stiff joints that make moving around difficult.
People with OA may have joint swelling after extended activity, but OA doesnt cause significant enough inflammatory reaction to result in redness of the affected joints.
Unlike RA, OA isnt an autoimmune disease. Its related to the natural wear and tear of the joints as you age, or it can develop as a result of trauma.
OA is most often seen in older adults. However, it can sometimes be seen in younger adults who overuse a particular joint such as tennis players and other athletes or those whove experienced a severe injury.
RA is an autoimmune disease. The joint damage from RA isnt caused by normal wear and tear. Its caused by your body attacking itself.
Recommended Reading: Does Psoriatic Arthritis Itch
What Foods Are Good For Rheumatoid Arthritis
It is important to maintain a healthy diet if you have rheumatoid arthritis to help reduce your risk of developing serious symptoms. This includes:
- eating lots of fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereal food, such as brown rice or oats
- eating foods that contain fish oil
- avoiding fatty, sugary or very salty foods
- not drinking alcohol often
- maintaining a healthy body weight
When The Fingers Are Abnormally Bent
Some disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and injuries can cause the fingers to bend abnormally. In swan-neck deformity, the joint at the base of the finger bends in , the middle joint straightens out , and the outermost joint bends in . In boutonnière deformity, the middle finger joint is bent inward , and the outermost finger joint is bent outward .
Swollen wrists can pinch a nerve and result in numbness or tingling due to carpal tunnel syndrome Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. The cause of most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome is unknown… read more .
Cysts, which may develop behind affected knees, can rupture, causing pain and swelling in the lower legs. Up to 30% of people with rheumatoid arthritis have hard bumps just under the skin , usually near sites of pressure .
Examination of joint fluid
In addition to the important characteristic pattern of symptoms, doctors follow established criteria when evaluating a person for rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors suspect people have rheumatoid arthritis if they have more than one joint with definite swelling of the joint’s lining that is not caused by another disorder. Doctors diagnose people with rheumatoid arthritis if they have certain combinations of the following criteria:
Read Also: How Does Arthritis Affect Your Body
Other Conditions And Joint Pain
Other forms of arthritis, and other conditions, can also cause joint pain. Examples include:
- fibromyalgia syndrome, a condition in which your brain processes pain in your muscles and joints in a way that amplifies your perception of the pain
- scleroderma, an autoimmune condition in which inflammation and hardening in your skin connective tissues can lead to organ damage and joint pain
Can I Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis
You cannot prevent rheumatoid arthritis because the cause of the disease is not known.
Quitting smoking, or never smoking, will reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. You are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis if someone in your close family has it, but unfortunately there is no way to reduce this risk.
People who have rheumatoid arthritis often experience flare ups, which are times when their joints are particularly sore. Learning what triggers your flare ups can help reduce or prevent them.
For some people, stress can trigger a flare up, so can being run down or pushing yourself beyond your limits. Having an infection, missing a dose of your medicine or changing your treatment plan can also cause a flare up.
Keeping a food and activity diary may help work out your personal triggers but keep in mind that sometimes flare ups happen without any obvious cause.
Recommended Reading: Rash With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Prevention Of Rheumatic Diseases
There are no known ways to prevent certain rheumatic diseases, including ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, gout, infectious arthritis, Lyme disease, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatic arthritis.
However, in some cases, avoiding or reducing certain triggers can help prevent flares. For lupus, this means avoiding common triggers, such as stress, infections, certain medications, or sunlight, per the Lupus Foundation of America.
For gout, it may help to avoid diuretics , drinking alcohol, or consuming foods or drinks high in fructose or too many purine-rich foods , notes the CDC.
Recommended Reading: Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes
Alternative And Complementary Therapies For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Certain lifestyle changes and home remedies may be beneficial in addition to the conventional treatment of medication, physical therapy, and surgery if needed.
You should always check with your medical provider before trying any complementary or alternative therapies.
Donât Miss: How To Ease Arthritis Pain In Lower Back
Recommended Reading: Rheumatoid Arthritis In Lower Back Symptoms
Diseases And Health Conditions That Mimic Rheumatoid Arthritis
Arthritis is a painful and debilitating disease that is associated with significant joint stiffness and pain. There are several different subtypes of arthritis, which include degenerative arthritis, inflammatory or autoimmune arthritis, infectious arthritis and metabolic arthritis.
One of the most common subtypes of inflammatory arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, which is so prevalent that studies estimate that it affects up to one percent of the worlds population. However, rheumatoid arthritis can often be difficult to diagnose as its symptoms share a lot in common with those of several other conditions.
Consequently, rheumatoid arthritis can be often misdiagnosed as a different disease, or vice versa. These are the top diseases that rheumatoid arthritis mimics and can be misdiagnosed as:
Will Dietary Changes Help My Rheumatoid Arthritis
Diet may play a role in some patients, but most patients should maintain a well-balanced diet rather than avoid specific foods. Keep a diary to determine whether certain foods are associated with your disease flares and then see if removing them from your diet is helpful.
Some studies do suggest that eating fish two or more times per week may be associated with fewer disease-related symptoms, and there is increasing evidence that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is helpful for managing RA.
Recommended Reading: Ra And Leg Cramps
Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs Arthritis: Whats The Difference
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the bodys immune system attacks the joint linings that produce fluid that lubricates the joints. This results in signs and symptoms of inflammation, swelling, and pain in and around the joints, and in some cases, a rash. Over time, if left untreated, RA damages cartilage and bone and causes permanent joint deformity.
RA affects joints on both sides of the body, typically the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles, although it can also affect other joints. It can also affect the cardiovascular or respiratory systems.
Different types of medications are used to treat RA, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs , and subsets of DMARDs . Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed with a physical exam and history, a blood test and sometimes xrays.
Other types of arthritis include:
- Osteoarthritis the most common type of arthritis, resulting from degeneration of cartilage
- frustration, and
- social withdrawal.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually inflames multiple joints and affects both sides of the body. In its most common form, therefore, it is referred to as a symmetric polyarthritis.
You May Like: What Can I Take Over The Counter For Arthritis Pain
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.
Also Check: Mayo Clinic On Arthritis
Managing Symptoms Of Autoimmune Arthritis
Several medications work for both psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications reduce pain and swelling.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs protect joints and slow the disease, and less of the joint is destroyed, meaning theres less swelling, pain and less loss of joint function.
- Biologics target the specific parts of the immune system that drive inflammation.
As researchers learn more about the causes of inflammatory arthritis, theyre developing new medications to manage these diseases. Some of these new drugs are designed to specifically target one disease or the other.
Both psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are chronic diseases. They cant be cured, but they can be managed, Dr. Rosian says. By working with your doctor to get the correct diagnosis, you can manage symptoms to feel your best.
The Synovial Tissue Becomes Inflamed
Many parts of the body, including joints, tendons, and bursae, are surrounded by a delicate membrane lining called synovial tissue . Rheumatoid arthritis causes the synovial lining surrounding a joint to become inflamed. This condition is called synovitis, and it can cause joint pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Don’t Miss: Severe Arthritis Symptoms
Diseases That Mimic Rheumatoid Arthritis
A number of diseases can be similar to rheumatoid arthritis . There is notable overlap between symptoms of RAjoint pain, stiffness, fatigueand those of RA-like rheumatic or autoimmune diseases, other types of arthritis, and some viral and bacterial infections.
Ruling out other conditions that mimic RA, such as Lyme disease, lupus, and fibromyalgia is part of diagnosing RA. This process relies on a combination of your physical examination, medical history, laboratory test results, and imaging studies.
Even after you’ve been diagnosed with RA, your healthcare providers may consider other conditions if your symptoms are still not improving, despite treatment with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs .
Research published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases found that more than 40% of people who were diagnosed with RA actually had a different condition.
It’s also possible that you could have RA and another condition.
Verywell Health / Hilary Allison
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Managed
You can manage rheumatoid arthritis by taking medicines as prescribed to treat pain and joint inflammation. You can also help reduce symptoms by exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Aim to do 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This can be at one time or broken up into shorter sessions.
You may also need to make changes at home to help you manage daily tasks like cleaning or gardening. An occupational therapist can help you make adjustments if pain or joint stiffness makes certain tasks hard to complete. They can recommend tools to reduce strain on your joints, such as long-handled dustpans so you dont need to bend over, or book holders to reduce the strain on your hands and wrists.
You might find that rheumatoid arthritis makes you frustrated and upset. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause poor sleep, which can also make you feel down. Discus your feelings with friends and family and explain to them what they can do to support you. This may help you feel better and reassured that help is available, if needed. If you are struggling with a low mood or not managing to sleep, your doctor will be able to support you and work with you to build a plan to help.
Don’t Miss: Rheumatoid Arthritis Over The Counter Medication
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.
Why Are Rest And Exercise Important For Ra
You need to be active, but you also have to pace yourself. During flare-ups, when inflammation gets worse, itâs best to rest your joints. Using a cane or joint splints can help.
When the inflammation eases, itâs a good idea to exercise. Itâll keep your joints flexible and strengthen the muscles that surround them. Low-impact activities, like brisk walking or swimming, and gentle stretching can help. You may want to work with a physical therapist at first.
Read Also: Acute Arthritis Attack
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
Rheumatoid Arthritis And Autoimmune Diseases
From the WebMD Archives When your doctor tells you that you have rheumatoid arthritis , swelling, It often starts in middle age and is most common in older people.Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: Nodules under your skin are a visual clue of arthritis RHEUMATOID arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes a number of joint problems.
You May Like: What To Do For Arthritis Pain In Hands
What Are The Treatments For Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA is usually treated with a combination of medications to relieve swelling and pain while regulating the immune system. Joint surgery to relieve pain and disability, including joint replacement, may also be considered when these nonsurgical methods have failed to provide lasting benefit.
With early detection and intervention, RA and other forms of inflammatory arthritis can be treated very effectively. The connects patients quickly and efficiently with a rheumatologist who can evaluate their joint pain and get each patient started on an appropriate course of treatment. HSS also offers specialized for people with RA.
Today, we are blessed with a deeper understanding of the pathogenesis and characteristics of RA and the availability of safe and effective medications that can alter the natural history of RA and improve function. We start with the premise that RA is eminently controllable, and the goal of our therapies is “no evidence of disease.” That means no signs of redness, warmth, swelling or tenderness and normal function. Since we would not accept uncontrolled illness in angina, chronic obstructive lung disease, hypertension or diabetes, we should similarly not accept it in RA. Luckily, today, we have the therapeutic tools to make this happen.