Nearly one out of three persons in the United States suffers from a joint disease. The more common type of arthritis that afflicts persons is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disabling joint disease where chemical changes in the blood caused by inflammation have been found to take place. The inflammation is believed to be produced by the body's auto-immune immune system attacking itself. It damages the surrounding tissues like blood vessels, nerves, skin, heart, muscles and lungs when the inflammation is left without immediate treatment.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may start showing at an early age such as those seen in children suffering Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Most often, the symptom begins with sudden fever accompanied by a light rash that immediately disappears. And similar to adults, persistent joint swelling, stiffness of the affected area especially in the morning or after a day's rest are also felt.
Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may show before the age of 45 among adults. It may start as part of a severe illness usually with high fever. Sometimes the disease also develops in a subtle way without the patient noticing its occurrence until it is too late.
This happens when there is no amount of discomfort felt except the apparent loss of appetite, decrease in weight and probably a mild fever. Often, without immediate treatment deformities have developed before the disease could be pointed out as the cause. Tenderness, redness and excessive warmth on the areas affected also indicate the presence of the disease.
The inflammation of the joint usually lasts to as short as a few minutes or continue to a number of years depending on the treatment. At the onset of the disease, the tendons become shortened and the normal balance of the muscles is hampered. When the muscles are weakened they lose their strength. This is most evident in the inability to grip or make a tight fist among patients with rheumatoid arthritis in the hands.
The stiffening of some parts of the body that build up during time of rests or a night's sleep which gradually disappears when the patient starts moving, is one of the most common rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. The stiffness results from the muscular weakness caused by the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are most obvious in the hands and feet. It also appears in other body joints such as elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, spine and ankles. Sometimes the jawbones are involved. Among patients, the involvement of both joints on the two sides of the body and usually with the same pattern of development is due to the fact that the disease is symmetric. The symptoms may not come often to some people but they generally appear and heighten at periods of severe stress.
It is also possible that one might show symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis but may actually be suffering from other specific types of arthritis. A related but separate disease is the Ankylosing Spondylitis which shows symptoms similar to it. Sometimes, the presence of the disease predisposes the patient to other types of joint disease like cervical arthritis.