(WellnessPursuits.com) – Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain, damage and swelling. It affects approximately 1.5 million people in the US. How do you know if you might be one of them?
While many of the more recognizable symptoms of RA involve the joints, some of the other early indicators of the disease may surprise you. Here are 10 warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis to watch out for. The first 7 are not the classic symptoms you’d expect.
- Fatigue – Fatigue is often one of the first symptoms you may experience when you have rheumatoid arthritis. This stems from the body’s response to inflammation, causing you to feel unproductive and worn down.
- Weight loss – Feeling unwell leaves some people with the disease to experience a lack of appetite, which can result in weight loss.
- Fever – When a fever occurs in combination with fatigue and inflammation, it could be an early warning sign. Fevers caused by rheumatoid arthritis are generally low-grade.
- Morning stiffness – Feeling stiffness from 30 minutes to 2 hours upon waking is a common early warning of arthritis. Sitting for long periods of time can also cause this symptom. You may also experience stiffness at any time in just two joints, typically in the fingers.
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. This happens when joint inflammation causes nerve compression, leading to a loss of sensation.
- Decreased range of motion – Inflammation in the joints can make it difficult to move your joints. For example, you might have a hard time moving your wrist back and forth. Once the disease progresses further and leads to joint damage, it can become difficult to bend and straighten your tendons and ligaments.
- Dry eyes – If you’ve been experiencing dry eyes in combination with any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it could be a sign of RA. It’s a common problem for many who suffer from the disease and may also be a sign of Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes dry eyes and dry mouth and occurs in 10-15% of RA patients.
- Joint pain – One of the most well-known symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is joint pain. While a number of diseases can also cause painful joints, RA tends to cause symmetrical joint pain — meaning you will experience pain in both wrists, for example, rather than just one.
- Joint swelling – Although swelling becomes one of the more obvious signs as RA progresses, it can be subtle in the beginning. Signs of RA-related swelling to watch out for include puffy or swollen wrists, hands and feet. You might also notice warmth in the affected area. Wearing heels due to foot swelling might become difficult, too.
- Joint redness – Do you notice redness of the skin around your hands and feet joints? This is another early sign of the disease. When these joints become inflamed, it causes the blood vessels in these areas to widen, leading to increased blood flow and, ultimately, redness.
Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t just a painful disease. Without proper treatment, it can lead to debilitating joint deformities and inflammation in the eyes, lungs and heart, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If you have any of these warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis, talk to your healthcare provider about testing. There are treatment options that may help manage the disease and prevent the risk of long-term and potentially life-threatening complications of RA.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Pursuits!
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