Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is debilitating chronic disease that affects the joints. It can occur in a number of parts of the body, though it primarily afflicts the joints. Symptoms can flare up and then disappear for long periods of time. RA causes inflammation of joints and can make moving very difficult and painful.
RA presents symptoms that are similar to other conditions, but it always affects the joints. Check with a doctor if you are suffering some or all of the following symptoms:
- Joint stiffness – Joints are harder to move and have lesser range of motion. “Morning stiffness”, which can affect RA patients upon waking in the morning, can take hours to dissipate.
- Swelling – Fluid can enter the joint, leading it to become tumescent, and contributing to joint stiffness.
- Pain – Inflammation inside the joint leads to sensitivity and tenderness. Protracted inflammation can lead to joint damage.
- Redness and warmth – Skin near inflamed joint may appear redder or feel warmer than surrounding skin.
- Fatigue – Difficulty moving can lead to a feeling of physical exhaustion.
- Malaise – A general feeling of illness can accompany RA.
- Rheumatoid nodules – Firm bumps of tissue under the skin may form. These bumps typically occur at the back of the elbows or hands and may be painful to the touch.
- Locked joints – Swelling of tendons and connective tissue around joints can become so severe, the joint becomes unable to move.
- Symmetrical misery – Joints on both sides of the body may hurt at the same time.
RA typically begins in the smaller joints, such as the ones that attach the fingers to the hands or toes to the feet. As the disease drags on, it can move to bigger joints, like the knees, elbows, and shoulders. RA can be managed effectively with help from a doctor, so it’s good idea to see a medical professional if you’re suffering from the above symptoms.