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4 Warning Signs That Could Signal Rheumatoid Arthritis

Did you know that there are more than one million people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the United States? This chronic autoimmune disease has been the topic of several posts on this blog, but today we’re going to take a step back and examine how one might be able to tell if their body is showing warning signs for RA.

Here are some key facts to look over before we continue:

  • Studies have not helped specialists identify an exact cause.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis.
  • A cure has yet to be developed, but contemporary treatments have improved significantly in recent years.
  • Detecting this disease early is the best way to limit permanent joint damage and maintain some range of motion.

Rheumatologist diagnoses patient with advanced RAAs many autoimmune disorders tend to be, diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis can prove quite a challenge. Still, RA clinical studies have shown that a person’s body will exhibit certain signals at an early stage in development. The disease also tends to enter periods of remission where symptoms completely disappear. This might make it easier for people to ignore in the beginning.

You’ll need to keep in mind that these early warning signs can often be vague. Some people might experience any of the following:

  • Burning/irritated eyes
  • Sleep issues
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet

(Please keep in mind that these symptoms could be the result of something other than rheumatoid arthritis.)

So enough of being vague right? You’ve come to our clinical research blog to be more informed and that’s what we aim to provide. The following is a list of warning signs that are specific to RA. You’ll want to schedule an appointment with your doctor right away if any of these occur:

Pain in the Joints

One of the most tell-tale symptoms for RA is pain or tenderness in the joints. Be mindful that there are other medical conditions, like osteoarthritis (OA) or even systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), that can produce this type of symptom. However, pain in the joints of both hands and wrists often means its rheumatoid arthritis. This disease tends to produce a symmetrical pattern with the joints that are affected (i.e. if one wrist is hurting, the other will likely start hurting too).

Swelling and Inflammation

Puffiness in the hands, feet or wrists is not something that should be ignored. The swelling is the result of fluid buildup in the joints, and it can make them quite tender and warm to the touch. People who have rheumatoid arthritis may develop inflammation in joints after they’ve gone unused for an hour or more.

(Check out: 5 Healthy Habits for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis)

Chronic Fatigue

The Arthritis Foundation has reported that a shocking 98 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients cope with the symptoms of chronic fatigue. The effects of this condition can best be described as overwhelming weariness and severe exhaustion– the result of the excess pressure put on joints wracked by the symptoms of RA. Early indications might include feeling unusually tired during the day or not getting a full night’s rest. These feelings of exhaustion may need to be brought up with a specialist.

Waking Up Feeling Unusually Stiff

Rheumatologist checking finger joints for RA symptomsMorning stiffness is another common trait ascribed to this chronic autoimmune disease. People with advanced RA may not be able to move their joints at all first thing in the morning. This stiffness usually persists for at least 30 min, but it can last a couple hours. Have you been waking up feeling a little more stiff than feels normal? If it’s a recurring issue, then it could be RA.

(If you’re interested in helping us advance modern treatments for this disease, please consider taking part in our RA clinical trial here in Birmingham, AL.)

It can be tough to acknowledge that our bodies aren’t as strong as we want them to be, and this can drive many of us to try and ignore potential problems. However, we ask that you don’t ignore these warning signs if they are applicable. An early diagnosis followed by immediate treatment can help prevent a significant amount of permanent joint damage down the road.

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