At least 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Commonly known as RA, this is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack a person’s own tissue lining the joints. If you are not familiar with RA, here is some basic information:
- Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis.
- It does not have a known cause.
- While there is no cure for RA yet, treatments have improved greatly over the years.
- Your best chance of limiting damage to joints and maintaining range of motion is to detect RA as early as possible.
If you are heading for rheumatoid arthritis, your body will start giving out signals early on. These signals may not be constant. Sometimes, a person’s RA goes into remission for long periods, only to recur down the road, says WebMD. That is why it is important to know the clues that can signal rheumatoid arthritis.
RA can announce itself in vague, non-specific ways. For instance, patients of rheumatoid arthritis often experience sleep issues, burning eyes, dry mouth, numbness and tingling sensations in the hands and feet. But there are specific signs that spell RA, which you should know. Here is a list:
Watch out for puffiness on your hands, feet or wrists. This happens when fluid enters the joints, causing them to swell and become tender and warm. In rheumatoid arthritis, this could occur if the joints have not been used for an hour or more.
2. Joint Pain
Tenderness or pain of the joints is one of the most common symptoms among patients with RA. Sometimes, other disorders can cause such pain. But if you find both your hands and wrists hurting, it is most likely to be rheumatoid arthritis, which tends to have a symmetrical pattern.
3. Morning Stiffness
A typical sign of rheumatoid arthritis is stiff joints in the morning. You might find that you cannot move your arms, legs, and/or fingers as far wide as you should be able to. This condition can last from 30 minutes to two hours. Such unexplained stiffness needs to be attended to. See a rheumatologist, especially if symptoms recur often.
The Arthritis Foundation reports that up to 98 percent of those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis experience fatigue. Sarah Hewlett, PhD, senior lecturer in Rheumatology Health Professions at the University of Bristol in England, says patients of rheumatoid arthritis describe fatigue as “severe weariness and dramatic and overwhelming exhaustion.” This happens because the joints have inflammation and need to work harder to get you through the day. Sleep is also disrupted, and you might wake up not feeling refreshed. If all of this sounds like you, it might be time to see a specialist.
With early diagnosis and proper treatment, joint damage can be reduced to a great extent.
*Image of “hands” via Shutterstock