Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a painful disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Start a search to learn about the common symptoms of the disease, which could help you spot the warning signs.
The earlier RA is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances are of controlling the disease and preventing long-term joint damage. Here, we’ll explore the 12 most common symptoms of RA and what you can do if you suspect you have the condition.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
RA is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness. In severe cases, RA can also damage bones, cartilage, and other tissues in the body. The disease is typically diagnosed in middle-aged adults and is two to three times more common in women than in men. The exact cause of RA is unknown, but a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors is believed to play a role.
Pain and Swelling in Joints
The most common symptom of RA is pain and swelling in the joints, particularly in the hands, wrists, feet, and ankles. The joints may also feel warm to the touch and be red and tender.
Another common symptom of RA is joint stiffness, especially in the morning or after a period of inactivity. This stiffness can last for several hours and make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
Many people with RA experience fatigue, which can be debilitating and affect their ability to perform daily activities. Fatigue is often a result of the inflammation caused by RA and can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes.
Fever is another common symptom of RA and can occur as a result of the underlying inflammation. If you have a fever along with joint pain and swelling, it’s important to see a doctor.
Loss of Appetite
The inflammation and pain associated with the condition can cause a person to lose their desire to eat or experience a decrease in their sense of taste. Additionally, medications used to manage the disease may also cause nausea, which can further impact appetite.
Dry Mouth and Eyes
RA causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues. When the immune system attacks the salivary and tear glands, it can lead to dry mouth and eyes, also known as Sjogren’s syndrome. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and can affect a person’s quality of life. Dry mouth and eyes can also be a side effect of medications used to treat RA.
Numbness and Tingling
In some cases, RA can cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. This can be a result of the inflammation causing pressure on the nerves.
Rashes can appear on the skin as red, itchy, and scaly patches, or small bumps in areas such as the hands, elbows, knees, or feet. The severity and frequency of the rashes can vary between individuals, and some may not experience them at all. Rashes can also be a result of the medications used to treat the RA.
Weakness caused by RA often affects the muscles in the hands, arms, and legs, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks like opening jars, lifting objects, or climbing stairs. This can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and make them more susceptible to falls and injuries. While the exact cause of muscle weakness in rheumatoid arthritis is not fully understood, it is thought to be related to inflammation in the muscles or nerve damage caused by the disease.
In some cases, RA can cause inflammation in the lining surrounding the heart, a condition called pericarditis. This can lead to chest pain, especially when taking deep breaths or lying down. Pericarditis is relatively uncommon in people with RA, but it can be serious and require prompt medical attention.
Difficulty breathing is not a common symptom of RA, but it can occur in some cases. The inflammation and stiffness caused by the condition can affect the joints in the chest wall and make it difficult to expand the lungs fully. This can lead to shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing, especially during physical activity or when lying down. In some cases, RA can also cause inflammation of the lung tissue or the lining around the lungs, which can further contribute to breathing difficulties.
Living with a chronic illness like Rheumatoid Arthritis can be challenging, and it’s not uncommon for people with RA to experience depression and anxiety. The physical symptoms of RA, such as joint pain and fatigue, can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, leading to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.