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What are Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis? Diagnosis & Symptoms

Feb 11, 2022

For a lot of people, rheumatoid arthritis is merely a pain in one’s joints, but there’s far more to it than just that. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic (full body) autoimmune disease that affects soft tissues, cartilage (joints), and bones, which means that one’s own immune system (by mistake) attacks its own (healthy) cells. With rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mainly attacks joints, some of them at the same time. So, experiencing pain in more than one joint is one of the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis.

So, how bad can some pain in your joints be? The truth is that this can get excruciatingly painful. If left untreated for long enough, the result can be permanent disability or worse.

With that in mind, it’s important that we start asking some questions.

  • What are some other symptoms of this disease?
  • Can the disease be stopped or at least treated?
  • What are some of the risk factors that you should know about?
  • Let’s try to find answers to at least some of these questions!

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

One of the first symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is the pain in your joints, often followed by stiffness, tenderness, and occasional swelling. Now, how do you know that this is not merely a pulled joint or a localized pain from another source? Although not always present, one telling sign is the fact that you feel this unpleasant sensation in all of your joints at the same time.

Some other symptoms you should watch out for are:

  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Significant AM stiffness
  • Symmetrical involvement
  • Joint swelling
  • The same type of pain in both of your hands or knees

Remember that while some symptoms are quite specific, and others are very general, symptoms alone are not definitely conclusive. You will definitely need to be examined by a medical professional.

Early Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Keep in mind that rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and it may also be hereditary. So, if one of your predecessors had troubles with rheumatoid arthritis, chances are that you may also have troubles with RA. Having a strong family history of RA will allow you, and your medical team, an opportunity to catch early signs/symptoms and, therefore, potentially offer early treatments.

So, if you seem to be prone to inflammation, the chances are that this is a warning sign. Other early warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis are fatigue, slight fever, and even unexpected (and inexplicable) weight loss.

What To Do When You Recognize Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The first thing you need to do is try and figure out if what you’re dealing with is really rheumatoid arthritis. A lot of people see Google and WebMD as their first stop, not because they assume that they can successfully self-diagnose, but because it’s the easiest thing to do. Still, it’s always more effective to go for an in-person RA evaluation.

Now, while it is not uncommon for people to self-diagnose themselves with rheumatoid arthritis the first time their joints start hurting, it is always better to go to a medical professional or a rheumatologist near you. When your doctor finally diagnoses rheumatoid arthritis, you might want to dedicate more time to learning how to live and cope with the disease. 

Sometimes the diagnosis requires lab tests and imaging. In terms of subsequent treatment, the best results come if you are diagnosed within 6 months of the first symptoms. When done properly, and if your body responds well to the treatment, you could be able to stop disease progression or, at the very least, slow it down. Suppressing the inflammation should, on its own, be enough to drastically reduce the potential damage done by rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

From the moment you notice the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis, there will be one question on your mind – is there a cure, and what is it?

First of all, it’s important to stress out that there’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, with early diagnosis, treatment, and support, the impact of disease can be lowered quite drastically.

The initial treatment involves a combination of medicines that are supposed to block the effect of chemicals released when your immune system attacks your joints. These chemicals are what cause the most damage to nearby bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, which is why minimizing their effect are quintessential to your treatment.

Treatment with corticosteroids can lower the pain but they may also come with some side-effects like hair loss, weight loss, trouble sleeping, mood changes, headaches, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.

Lastly, physiotherapy and even surgery may be quite effective in improving your quality of life in scenarios where your joints are damaged. This way, you can regain control over these parts of your body and improve your range of motion.

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes

There are several causes of rheumatoid arthritis that you need to be aware of in order to be on alert and increase your prevention efforts. For instance, while it is technically possible to develop rheumatoid arthritis at any age, it is far more likely for this to happen between the ages of 30 and 50.

We’ve already mentioned family history as a considerable factor. The problem is that you might not be aware of the medical history of both sides of your family.

Smokers, obese individuals, and those with periodontal disease are also more likely to experience rheumatoid arthritis. In other words, maintaining a healthy body weight and dropping some bad habits could also help with rheumatoid arthritis prevention. Not to mention that these choices are a great payoff on their own.

The truth is that while the situation may look bad, there’s so much you can do. You don’t have to let the pain of a rheumatological disorder ruin your life. There are a lot of options at your disposal, ranging from finding the right medical expert/team, all the way to reforming your way of life.

Wrap Up

While rheumatoid arthritis is a horrible disease, with the right steps of precaution, you can effectively prevent it from ruining your life. Noticing signs of rheumatoid arthritis early on can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of the treatment. Going to the right specialist and identifying risk factors in your own lifestyle is your steps two and three on this journey of a thousand miles. Knowing there is a trap is the first step in avoiding it and now you know better.

In order to get more information, find a rheumatologist at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey.

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