Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms- What are the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an incredibly aggressive and destructive form of arthritis, and it’s incredibly important to recognize it at an early stage before it becomes something full-blown or progressive because the earlier you catch it the better the chances that you can prevent it from progressing where you’ve had permanent and significant destructive changes. So there are a number of things that you can look out for that might make you suspicious that you could be developing this sort of condition.
Firstly it’s important to understand that rheumatoid arthritis is a condition of the immune system. What that means is that your immune system, which is normally meant to protect you from bacteria and viruses, in this condition can start to look at your own joints and other organs as foreign and actually attack it and cause inflammation which then leads to the symptoms that you see in rheumatoid arthritis. This is important to understand because besides joint pain, there are a number of other things that you should be on the lookout for as well that could indicate that you’re developing something bigger. It’s also important to remember that the inflammation that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic phenomenon. What that means is that it’s a total body inflammation. So as an example of total body inflammation things that you may experience early on in this condition includes significant fatigue. Possibly weight loss as well and very prominent stiffness first thing in the morning. For those of us that are over 40 years old, you may have a little bit of stiffness normally that can occur but that generally lasts for 5 to 10 minutes and as we start to move that stiffness goes away relatively quickly. On the other hand in a condition like rheumatoid arthritis that inflammation in the whole body is so significant that it can take over 60 Minutes or over an hour to really clear out from your body first thing in the morning.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory arthritis. What that means is that you have very significant inflammation within the joint as well. An inflamed joint characteristically looks like there’s swelling in the joint, as well as significant pain, warmth, sometimes redness, and very significant pain as well. How do you know if you have swelling in a joint? In some cases it can look very obvious. You look at your hands, you look at your knee, it may look very obvious where you see a very swollen and inflamed joint. In other cases an inflamed or swollen joint may not look quite so obvious but you’ll notice that you have difficulty fully flexing or extending the joint that’s inflamed that can also sometimes indicate that there’s fluid within the joint as well.
The classic definition of rheumatoid arthritis is one where you have inflammation in joints on the right and left side of the body. Affecting prominently the small joints, meaning the hands and the feet. With significant stiffness lasting for more than 60 minutes, and symptoms that last for more than six weeks. That last one is important because there are other conditions that can mimic rheumatoid arthritis, but they generally are self limiting. So as an example, if you had a bad cold or viral infection, you may have some generalized aches and pains in the body, but generally speaking that only lasts for a couple weeks at most. It’s important to understand the normal time course of rheumatoid arthritis and when pain is becoming chronic, which again is defined as more than six weeks, that’s when you need to start worrying about this kind of diagnosis. It’s also important to understand that while the small joints, the hands and the feet, are classically affected, in reality in a condition like rheumatoid arthritis any joint in the body can be affected.
If you have a joint that is inflamed, again which means swollen warm very significantly painful and reduced range of motion with flexion and extension, you should consider whether you may have an inflammatory arthritis. And within that category of conditions, there’s a number of different diagnoses, rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most significant ones within that list. So if you have pain and swelling in a joint lasting for more than six weeks, I strongly recommend you check in with your trusted physician and get checked out for a condition like rheumatoid arthritis. Make an early diagnosis, get started on an appropriate treatment, and try to live your best life possible.