13 RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS EARLY SIGNS TO WATCH OUT FOR

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Rheumatoid arthritis early signs can easily be ignored because it might look like stress or other stress-related symptoms. Whenever you see any warning signs of arthritis, it is crucial to verify through proper diagnosis.

This is because early detection of rheumatoid arthritis is more advantageous. At the early onset of the disease, the joints are not yet hugely affected, and damage is minimal. Arresting the progression of the disease at this point will reduce the intensity and frequency of the flare-ups that arthritis patients often experience.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is an autoimmune inflammatory arthritis caused by an inflammatory response of the body. The body’s immune system attacks the joints, especially the small joints, causing inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t only attack the bones, and neither is it a disease for the old or just a knee problem. RA also attacks other body parts like the skin, heart, and eyes. Prolonged, untreated rheumatoid arthritis can result in permanent deformity of the joints and loss of motion. 

The risk effects of rheumatoid arthritis are one of the reasons why it is crucial to diagnose on time and identify a better management pattern for the disease. 

Rheumatoid arthritis early signs

It is always difficult to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis early because its symptoms are similar to stress-related symptoms. Each person also experiences unique symptoms that may or may not be generic.

Either way, it is always best to have a guideline to follow, and here are the warning signs that you might have rheumatoid arthritis:

1. Fatigue

Systemic inflammation can affect your quality of life. You might constantly feel tired, and having bouts of energy boost that fizzles out shortly can be a rheumatoid arthritis early sign

2. Loss of motion

Complete loss of motion in your joints is usually the result of untreated and prolonged arthritis. If you experience difficulty in moving in a specific direction or limited range of motion, it might be an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis.

3. Weight loss

Weight loss results from loss of appetite due to changes in the body. If you consistently experience loss of appetite and it is visibly affecting your weight, it is vital to see a doctor and rule out several options, including RA.

4. Fever

Fever accompanied by malaise might indicate an arthritis flare-up but usually with a temperature below 38°C. If you have a higher temperature, it is best to seek a doctor as this might suggest other health conditions.

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS EARLY SIGNS

5. Joint stiffness

Joint stiffness is pretty much one of the high indicators of rheumatoid arthritis. This stiffness usually occurs in the mornings after you wake up and may last for as long as an hour or more. This morning joint pain can worsen over time and is often due to a lack of motion or activities.

6. Symmetrical pain

Symmetrical pain in arthritis means that what you feel in your right joints is also felt in the left joints, and usually, more than one joint is affected, but it always affects the shoulder, wrists, fingers, feet, and ankles.

The symmetrical pain might not always be of the same severity, and you might not feel it all the time, so it is necessary to take note if it does or does not happen.

7. Joint pain 

When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis pain, it usually starts at the small joints of the body, so rather than feel pain in the knee (which is where everybody usually assumes arthritis is), you will experience pain in your hands, ankles, and feet. 

Pain can be frequent at the base of each finger or the bottom of each toe.

With RA, these joint pains are usually better after moving around and worse when you rest for an extended period.

8. Joint swelling

Rheumatoid arthritis can result in your joints getting bigger due to the inflammation. It might be challenging to know if your joints increase in size because the difference isn’t usually that much, especially when it is very early on and also in obese people.

9. Joint tenderness

Inflammation in your joints can cause your joints to look red and feel warm to the touch. Joint tenderness is one of the telltale signs of inflammation as inflammation causes increased blood flow.

10. Tingling 

Tingling can be a result of nerve strain due to inflammation. The inflamed ligaments and tendons might compress the nerves and result in tingling.

11. Numbness

Numbness can be from damage to nerves and ligaments, but it is one of the rheumatoid arthritis early signs to watch out for.

12. Feeling of malaise

Malaise is a feeling of being unwell and might include one or more other symptoms like fever, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, etc. It results from the body’s inflammatory response or the body’s immune response to inflammation.

13. Decreased grip strength

It is well-known that arthritis also affects the ligaments and tendons, as seen in feet arthritis, where the feet arch is deformed due to RA. When the ligaments and tendons are deformed, the range of motion and physical function decreases.

When the tendons are swollen, it can also affect the nerves controlling specific parts of the body, like the hand, resulting in loss of grip strength.

Always note that the symptoms of RA are not usually constant and can fluctuate. A symptom you experienced two years ago might not reappear when you reach the doctor’s office. It is important to continuously track your symptoms, especially when you suspect a particular disease.

Benefits of detecting rheumatoid arthritis early

1. Better disease management

An early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis makes you and your doctor manage the disease better. Prevention is always better than cure.

2. Arrest progression early

Early detection of RA allows your doctor to stop the disease in its tracks. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease without a cure, and treatment is purely based on the progression of the disease. 

3. Improves life quality

Catching RA can help to give you a better psychological balance. It makes you see hope and not wholly be at the mercy of the disease. Your psychological health will be better.

4. Joints that are affected by rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the small joints in the body, but as the disease progresses, it can affect the big joints like the hip and knee joints. 

  • Fingers: RA usually affects the joints in the fingers and can lead to joint deformation. There are several symptoms of hand arthritis, and if detected on time, one can control joint deformation.
  • Wrists: RA also affects the wrists and can cause pain and swelling. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to deformation, and you might experience the formation of nodules near the wrist, and it might also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Knee: RA usually affects the knee after the disease has deteriorated, and you might begin to experience stiffness, pain, and swelling. 
  • Ankle: When RA affects the ankle joints, it leads to discomfort in walking, and if left untreated, it can cause the bones to fuse, causing the person to lose range of motion on that ankle.
  • Feet: RA affects the ligaments of the feet and can cause the feet arch to collapse, and it also causes joint deformation of the toes.
Rheumatoid arthritis early signs

Final Thoughts

Getting a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis starts with you. You have to resist writing off any of the symptoms and warning signs. Also, make sure to confirm with a certified therapist before making conclusions.

The rheumatoid arthritis early signs may not be severe, but you can experience significant flare-ups in a short amount of time. Hence, do not wait till something happens before making an early diagnosis. Be on the lookout for any signs of arthritis, and visit the doctor to get a diagnosis.

What are the warning signs you encountered before your diagnosis? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments.

READ ALSO: 12 Top Anti-Inflammatory Diets for Arthritis

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