Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) often resemble other common illnesses, unfortunately it is also a primary reason for delay in diagnosis and treatment. Because early detection of RA is critical to maintaining a good quality of life, individuals are encouraged to recognize the unmistakable manifestations of RA and see their doctors, immediately.
A doctor's initial diagnosis of RA depends largely upon patient complaints, medical history, and findings during a physical exam.
To help with early detection of RA, apply these 8 defining questions to yourself:
Question (1): Who is more prone to the disease?
Answer: All persons are capable of developing RA at any age, however, statistics show that 75% of young female adults are more susceptible to the illness. RA often occurs in women of childbearing years, ranging from 25 to 45 years. Relatives of families diagnosed with the disease are also considered vulnerable to the disease.
Question (2): What is the cause of RA?
Answer: RA is thought to be an autoimmune disease, which means that the body mistakenly attacks its own cells, creating a hostile and weakened internal environment. Evidence also suggests a genetic predisposition to the illness, as well as a link to poorly managed bacterial infections.
Question (3): How is RA Characterised?
Answer: Of the many types of arthritic diseases, RA is the most serious form. It leads to severe crippling, chronic inflammation of the joints, systemic tissue damage and decreased function.
Question (4): What are the 4 classic symptoms of RA?
Answer: The most commonly reported symptoms are prolonged flu-like symptoms, specifically: i) morning stiffness, ii) joint pain, iii) muscle weakness, and iv) fatigue.
Question (5): How is RA different from common arthritic symptoms?
Answer: Rheumatoid arthritis is unlike osteoarthritis (arthritis), a degenerative disease that occurs naturally with aging and should not be confused with one the other. RA is a dysfunction of the immune system and if left untreated can become fatal.
Question (6): Why is past history of infections important?
Answer: Knowing your past medical history of infections is one important path to isolating RA. Persons infected with streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat) or scarlet fever has an increased risk of developing RA. Studies still debate the link between the development of acute RA and streptococcal bacteria (group A streptococcus) in playing a toxic role in the start of autoimmune diseases.
Question (7): Does RA affect joints, only?
Answer: No. Organs and body systems are typically affected and often include the heart, lungs and kidneys.
Question (8): What is the most suspecting symptom of RA?
Answer: The hallmark of RA is its inflammatory response, characterised by thickening of the synovial membrane that lines the joints, and stiffening of the hands and feet. Additionally, the symmetrical involvement of joint pain (pain on both sides of the body) is considered another important marker of RA.
After reading these questions, discuss your concerns with your doctor. Early detection of rheumatoid arthritis means starting a healthcare program within two years of diagnosis for a better life and a promising prognosis.