Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common disorder where an individual’s joints are attacked by their immune system. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis usually affect the wrists, feet, and hands, and spotting the signs early enough can make it possible for a person to get an early diagnosis and the necessary treatment. Through early and consistent management of RA, it becomes possible for a person to prevent permanent joint damage and disability. Such small measures also help to lead a comparatively pain-free life. Let us know a bit more about rheumatoid arthritis, early signs of rheumatoid arthritis, and when you should see a doctor.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
This condition occurs when joints become inflamed because the immune system of a person isn’t functioning properly. However, the immune system in people with RA attacks the body cells causing joint inflammation and making the joints painful, stiff, and swollen. At the moment, RA doesn’t have a cure, but through proper treatment, the flares of RA can be reduced. If this condition is not treated or signs of rheumatoid arthritis are ignored, the cartilage, joints, and bones in the affected area become damaged.
Early signs of rheumatoid arthritis
Since spotting the warning signs of RA can help you seek treatment earliest possible, you need to know the signs you should look for. Rheumatoid arthritis signs usually include the following.
This is a general symptom in people who are suffering from RA especially if they are experiencing joint inflammation. It is one of the most common early signs of rheumatoid arthritis. The fatigue is caused by the reaction of the body to poor sleep, inflammation, anemia, and treatment. It occurs when the body lacks enough energy and this can affect a person’s mood and emotions, relationship with people, occupation, attentiveness, sex drive, productivity, creativity, and happiness. The fatigue may also be linked with weight loss and poor appetite.
- Joint tenderness
Joint tenderness is usually one of the very first rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, which becomes apparent when you are suffering from RA. The joints involved start to become tender because the lining tissue in the joint irritates the capsule nerves. Whenever the irritated capsule gets compacted by any kind of pressure from an external source, like touching the joint, it becomes tender. Due to the compression, pain is provoked immediately, and this is why RA leads to insomnia or difficulty in sleeping.
- Joint pain
The pain one feels due to RA is caused by joint inflammation each time the condition is active. This pain also occurs when RA is inactive, or it’s being controlled by a certain joint that had been impaired by RA previously. Inactive RA may lead to the destruction of joints with damaged bone, ligaments, and cartilage. Intense pain is felt when the damaged joint is used.
- Active RA causes the swelling of joints because of excess fluids and the thickening of the joint’s lining tissue. This inflamed and swollen joint stretches and irritates the capsules surrounding the joint. Since the joint capsule contains nerve endings, this sends pain signals to a person’s brain.
- Swelling of joints
Another common problem caused by RA is swollen joints. It’s important to note that sometimes the swelling can be minimal and hard to notice. Other times, the swelling becomes very apparent. Luckily, a person who is affected by RA can easily tell if their joints are swollen or not. Swollen joints cause loss of motion range of the joints. If it occurs in the fingers, the swelling makes it difficult to get rings off and on.
- Stiffness of joints
Stiffness is another most common early signs of rheumatoid arthritis. When the joints that have been affected by active RA get inflamed, they become stiff early in the morning compared to later on during the day. Most physicians use the morning stiffness duration as a measure of how severe the inflammation of the active joint is. Fortunately, the duration of joint stiffness in the morning diminishes when RA responds to treatment.
- Joint redness
Redness of the joints will occur whenever they are inflamed. This occurs because the inflammation has widened the skin capillaries. The enlarged capillaries are commonly known as dilated capillaries. However, the redness doesn’t occur in every inflamed joint.
Although fever is not common in RA, it occurs in some patients if the disease is causing inflammation. Usually, a mild temperature elevation is experienced, and this corrects quickly when the inflammation caused by RA is treated. Since patients with RA require medication frequently, this can decrease the standard immune response. So, when a patient develops fever, infection is considered a possible cause. Such infections require aggressive treatment, and this can interrupt the ongoing rheumatoid treatment.
If you’re experiencing these early signs of rheumatoid arthritis, ensure medical consultation to avail the best treatment. It is important to remember that through early diagnosis and treatment of RA you will reduce the probability of experiencing severe complications.