Do you have it?
Symptoms experienced by rheumatoid arthritis patients are a direct result of the inflammation of joint tissue and/or accumulation of synovial fluid caused by this autoimmune disorder.
An autoimmune disorder is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it for foreign or damaged tissue.
Symptoms of RA can range from mild to debilitating, and every level in between. However, there are some common overall symptoms to be aware of should you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Below are the most commonly reported rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Joint Pain & Tenderness
Typically, joint pain is felt during times when the RA disease is active and the inflammation is irritating the joint, ultimately causing the pain (as opposed to diseases like osteoarthritis in which the pain comes from wear and tear on the joints).
Conversely, pain can also be felt when the disease isn’t active because of past damage that has been done to the joints in the body. This is often the case when dealing with old sports injuries related to elbows, knees, and other joints. In addition to outright pain, RA patients may also notice that their joints feel tender to the touch. This occurs when the inflammation in the joint tissue has affected the nerves within the joint capsule. In this case, any pressure placed on the joints—even compression during sleep—can elicit immediate pain.
Joint swelling is another common RA symptom expressed by patients with this disease and it is caused by the inflammation in the joint capsule. The amount of swelling experienced by RA patients can range from limited to very noticeable in nature.
When joints become swollen, it can reduce mobility and range of motion for people with rheumatoid arthritis. And if swelling affects the hands, this type of inflammatory arthritis can make it more difficult to remove or put on rings. Anti-inflammatory drugs can sometimes help reduce this RA symptom.
Joint Redness & Warmth
When joints are swollen due to RA, it can sometimes produce an isolated area of redness on the skin. This is because the skin’s capillaries widen due to the inflammation within the joint capsule, making them more visible. Additionally, when joints have become inflamed as a result of this disease, it is possible to feel warmth on the joint even if no redness is occurring. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how your body feels as some RA’s symptoms aren’t noticeable to the eye.
Joint Stiffness & Loss of Range of Motion
Stiffness in the joints occurs when this disease is in an active state of inflammation, or when your immune system is actively attacking healthy tissue. Oftentimes, the greatest amount of stiffness occurs in the mornings, but some RA patients report that it proceeds throughout the day as well.
In addition to experiencing pain and early morning stiffness, when severe damage has occurred to the joint capsule’s cartilage and bones, the patient’s entire joint can become deformed. This is usually the result of chronic rheumatoid arthritis that has gone undetected and without treatment.
The above symptoms are those that are physically experienced directly with the joints themselves by people with rheumatoid arthritis. However, each symptom can manifest itself in different ways, throughout different parts of the body, and during different periods of time with this particular immune system-related disease. If you see any symptom mentioned above, it is advisable to consult a doctor immediately.