What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints. It is characterized by inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the affected joints. However, RA can also affect other parts of the body, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. The symptoms of RA can vary from person to person, and they can range from mild to severe. In this article, we will discuss the common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
1. Joint pain and stiffness: One of the hallmark symptoms of RA is joint pain and stiffness. The pain is usually worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity. It commonly affects the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet, but it can also affect larger joints such as the knees, hips, and shoulders. The stiffness can make it difficult to move the affected joints, and it may improve with movement.
2. Joint swelling and tenderness: In addition to pain and stiffness, RA can cause joint swelling and tenderness. The affected joints may appear red and feel warm to the touch. The swelling and tenderness can make it difficult to perform daily activities and can limit the range of motion in the joints.
3. Fatigue: Many people with RA experience fatigue, which is a persistent feeling of tiredness or exhaustion. The fatigue can be debilitating and can interfere with daily activities and quality of life. It is often worse during periods of active inflammation.
4. Morning stiffness: Morning stiffness is a common symptom of RA. It is characterized by stiffness and difficulty moving the joints after waking up or after periods of inactivity. Morning stiffness typically lasts for at least 30 minutes but can persist for several hours.
5. Loss of appetite and weight loss: RA can cause a loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss. The inflammation associated with the disease can affect the body’s metabolism and lead to a decrease in appetite. Additionally, the chronic pain and fatigue can make it difficult to maintain a healthy diet and engage in physical activity, resulting in weight loss.
6. Fever: Some individuals with RA may experience low-grade fever, which is defined as a body temperature above the normal range of 36-37°C (97-98.6°F). The fever is usually mild and may come and go. It is often associated with periods of increased disease activity.
7. Joint deformity: Over time, RA can cause joint deformity. The chronic inflammation can lead to the destruction of cartilage and bone, resulting in joint deformities such as swan neck deformity (abnormal bending of the fingers), boutonniere deformity (flexion of the middle joint of the finger and hyperextension of the outermost joint), and ulnar deviation (sideways deviation of the fingers).
8. Nodules: RA can cause the formation of small, firm nodules under the skin. These nodules are usually painless and are commonly found over bony prominences, such as the elbows and fingers. However, they can also occur in other areas of the body, including the lungs.
9. Eye problems: RA can affect the eyes and cause various eye problems, including dryness, redness, pain, and blurred vision. Inflammation of the white part of the eye (scleritis) and inflammation of the colored part of the eye (iritis) are common eye complications of RA.
10. Lung involvement: RA can affect the lungs and cause inflammation and scarring. This can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain. In severe cases, it can result in lung complications such as pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the lungs) and pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of lung tissue).
11. Heart problems: RA is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The chronic inflammation can affect the blood vessels and increase the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), heart attack, and stroke. Individuals with RA may experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and palpitations.
12. Anemia: Anemia is a common complication of RA. It is characterized by a decrease in the number of red blood cells or a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. Anemia can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and pale skin.
It is important to note that the symptoms of RA can vary in severity and can come and go. Some individuals may experience periods of remission, during which the symptoms improve or disappear completely. However, RA is a chronic disease, and it requires ongoing management and treatment to control symptoms and prevent joint damage. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.