The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be painful and debilitating. If you are experiencing any symptoms similar to the one listed below, it is essential to see a doctor right away for an accurate diagnosis. This is critical because rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that can progress quite rapidly and lead to joint deformity and even organ damage in some individuals.
What are the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis? In most cases it can start with a feeling of stiffness, especially in the morning which can wear off as the day goes on. The stiff feeling usually starts in the small joints of the hands and feet and can include the wrist and shoulders as well.
Both sides of the body are usually affected symmetrically, which means both left and right hand and feet. The moment this type of stiffness is noticed is the time to get a diagnosis. It may be nothing to worry about, but if it turns out to be rheumatoid arthritis, an early diagnosis is one of the best things that can happen. If your doctor seems dismissive, go and find another, or ask to be referred to a rheumatologist. It's very important to start rheumatoid arthritis treatment as soon as possible.
After the initial feelings of stiffness, the joints may become painful and inflamed. You may feel very tired for no apparent reason or have a slight fever and flu like symptoms, you may even lose your appetite. At this stage a lot of people will shrug this off as the flu and the aches and pains that normally accompany the flu. This is what makes this disease so destructive, the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be similar to the symptoms of other diseases.
Over time the pain and inflammation will worsen. The affected joints may feel "hot" and the surrounding skin may appear red. Eventually the symptoms will spread to other parts of the body such as the hips, knees and possible the jaw. There may be weakness in the muscles and joints and swelling in the lymph glands. You may even notice the appearance of small bumps under the skin near the affected joints. These are known as rheumatoid nodules.
Eventually, if the disease remain untreated, deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints will occur and the joints will become deformed and this will further limit movement. There are various surgical procedures that can be performed these days which can give sufferers a better quality lifestyle.
Unfortunately the joints are not the only body parts that can be affected. Rheumatoid arthritis can also spread to connective tissue and blood vessels all through the body and cause inflammation in certain organs, such as the heart and lungs, increasing your risk of respiratory and infectious diseases. This is another reason why accurate diagnosis is so important.
To make diagnosis more frustrating is the fact that the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be confused with those of osteoarthritis, which is a more mechanical form of arthritis. However osteoarthritis does not typically affect both sides of the body symmetrically and there is no accompanying inflammation or fever. However in mild cases it is sometimes hard to tell the difference when joint pain is the only symptom.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can also come and go. Frustratingly they can disappear when you are at the doctor's surgery, only to reappear when you arrive home! More often there will be flare ups which can last for indefinite periods of time, followed by a period of remission. Sometimes the disease will disappear, never to return and in some cases it will be present all the time.
The main thing is to always monitor your body for unusual or new symptoms. If you notice any stiffness combined with flu-like signs or persistent tiredness, have them checked without delay as they could very well be symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and the progress of this disease is very rapid.