Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that’s best known for taking a toll on your joints. The condition affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. In some people, rheumatoid arthritis can also damage other body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.
An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. This is different from osteoarthritis, a condition which has similar symptoms but is the result of the wear-and-tear of everyday strenuous life.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, about 1.5 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, and three times as many women as men are affected by the disease. Spotting signs and symptoms as early as possible is essential in effectively treating the condition. Timely and regular management can hinder severe joint damage and prevent related disabilities later in life. Look through the list below to better educate yourself and your female friends on rheumatoid arthritis:
Rheumatoid arthritis causes tenderness in the affected joints. This is because the inflamed joint lining irritates nerves in the joint capsule, which can result in tenderness, pain and swelling. Early rheumatoid arthritis will usually affect the smaller joints first, especially those that attach fingers to hands and toes to feet. As the disease progresses, symptoms can spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. In most cases of the condition, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of the body.
People with rheumatoid arthritis might experience joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings or after inactivity. As with joint sensitivity, stiffness is usually felt in the smaller joints first.
Redness and warmth
Redness might be visible over inflamed joints. This is because the capillaries of that skin are expanded by the inflammation. On top of that, the active inflammation might prompt feelings of warmth on or around the joints.
Fatigue from rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by the body’s reaction to inflammation, poor sleep, anemia and/or medications.
Although not common, fever might occur in some patients when the disease is causing widespread inflammation. Typically, temperatures will only rise slightly, and correct themselves quickly as the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis is treated.
An early symptom is unexplained weight loss, which is possibly an indirect consequence of inflammation. Additionally, if patients feel feverish and fatigued, they may lose their appetite, which can cause additional weight loss.
Chronic inflammation might cause the bone marrow to decrease the release of red blood cells into circulation. This reaction lowers the red blood count in the body, which can cause anemia from rheumatoid arthritis.
Decreased range of motion
People with rheumatoid arthritis may have trouble with range of motion, such as bending their wrists back and forth. As the disease progresses, damage to the joints can spread to ligaments and tendons, making it harder to bend and straighten different parts of the body.