Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms & Warning Signs

Published: February 2, 2012

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Symptoms

Early on, rheumatoid arthritis patients experience weight loss, fatigue, appetite loss, muscle aches, weakness, and stiffness in the morning or when the weather is cold. Patients may notice weakness and pain in one or multiple parts of the body. Some forms of rheumatoid arthritis will also cause swollen glands.

As the condition progresses, rheumatoid arthritis will cause pain and swelling in the joints, which can radiate into pain and swelling in the muscles throughout other parts of the body. People will start to feel stiff and have trouble moving. Slowly, patients will start to develop a limited range of motion, and they may have trouble keeping up with their regular activities. While fighting rheumatoid arthritis, the body is under a tremendous amount of stress, so patients often feel tired. Even getting through a day of work, school, or parenting can be tough.

Patients will experience pain differently. Many people experience flare-ups, episodes when the pain feels significantly worse or incapacitating. After a flare-up, a person might start to feel normal and pain-free for an extended period of time. For other patients, the pain and stiffness is more constant. A person might feel a sensation that ranges from a dull ache to sharp pain. The symptoms are unique from person to person.

Patients may feel symptoms in one or multiple joints, including the fingers, elbows, shoulders, ankles, knees, neck, and toes.

Other common symptoms include anemia, vision problems, fevers, lung disorders, numbness, swelling, or inflamed glands. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you should keep up with your regular blood tests to determine whether you are at risk for these possible complications. If you experience these symptoms, you should consult your doctor to determine whether you are at risk for rheumatoid arthritis.

Severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis can cause permanent deformities and disfigurement. A limb can become completely twisted and contorted. Some deformities even have names: ulnar deviation, boutonniere, swan neck, and Z-thumb. These are not the most common deformities as a variety of unique deformities can occur based on an individual's specific condition.

People with rheumatoid arthritis frequently notice changes in their skin. Many people experience skin atrophy, dermatitis, and allergic reactions to drugs. A rare symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is fibrosis of the lungs. The kidneys, heart, and blood vessels can also experience problems.

In general, joint degeneration occurs one to two years after initial symptoms. In any case, many people are unaware that they have rheumatoid arthritis until the joints are under attack.

Warning Signs

Rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. During a heart attack, a rheumatoid arthritis may not experience common heart attack symptoms such as severe chest pain. To prevent a possible heart attack, rheumatoid arthritis patients need to gain control of their swelling through medications, physical therapy, and other treatment.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also be a symptom of another underlying condition such as a chronic illness, virus, or joint disorder. You might also experience rheumatoid arthritis as a side effect of a medication that you are taking.

A mild fever of about 100 degrees or under is common among rheumatoid arthritis patients. A fever that is higher may indicate the presence of an infection. Many rheumatoid arthritis medications can suppress the immune system, making patients susceptible to additional diseases and conditions. If you have a fever and you are a rheumatoid arthritis patient, you should consult a medical professional immediately. Because your immunity is low, you might have trouble fighting possible infections. You may need to adjust your treatment or take supplemental medications.

A swollen joint could end up pinching a nerve, causing symptoms of numbness and a tingling sensation. If you experience these symptoms, you should consult a doctor since a nerve might be trapped, and the damage may worsen over time.

Be aware of any food, medication, or activity that makes your symptoms become worse. You may be able to prevent flare-ups by avoiding activities, foods, and drugs that make you feel worse. If you notice that you experience diet-related flare-ups, you may need to work with a dietician or other medical professional to find meals that work for you.

If you think that you are having a heart attack and if you are extreme nerve pain, you may need to be rushed to the emergency room for treatment. Neurological and heart complications are high-priority problems that require prompt medical attention.

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