Most of us have heard of arthritis. That’s what happens when you get old, right? Actually, the short answer is no. This general term refers to more than 100 different types of joint inflammation, and they affect over 50 million adults and 300,000 children in the United States alone.
The most common form — osteoarthritis — does become more common with age. However, the next most prevalent type is rheumatoid arthritis, and it can develop at any time in life, especially among people between 30-60 years old. And, unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis involves your immune system.
Our team at Metro Pain and Vein Centers specializes in diagnosing and treating acute and chronic pain disorders, including those associated with your joints, like rheumatoid arthritis. We share these insights into rheumatoid arthritis and the most common signs of a problem.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder. That means your symptoms develop because your immune system misfires, causing it to mistake healthy joint tissue as a threat. Over time, this inflammation can lead to painful swelling, bone erosion, and joint deformity.
While you can experience a sudden onset of symptoms with rheumatoid arthritis, most people have gradual changes that seem worse in the morning and improve throughout the day. In the early stages, you usually have problems with your smaller joints first, especially the ones that attach your fingers and toes to your hands and feet.
However, as rheumatoid arthritis advances, your symptoms typically spread into your limbs and often impact the same joint on each side of your body. It’s also possible to develop symptoms in areas without joints, such as:
Your symptoms can also come and go and vary in severity. We refer to timeframes with increased symptoms as “flares” or “flare-ups.”
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, so the sooner you receive a diagnosis, the better you can manage your condition and preserve joint function.
As we mentioned above, symptoms can begin slowly, but they usually affect both sides of the body. Here are five common signs of this condition.
This tops the list as one of the most common early signs of rheumatoid arthritis. In the beginning, it can last a few minutes, but eventually, it can persist for hours and even make it difficult to get out of bed.
If you’ve noticed pain, tenderness, or stiffness in one or more of your smaller joints, you shouldn’t ignore it. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, these symptoms can appear at any time of day and during movement or rest.
Have you had problems with your rings fitting? Do your joints seem bigger than normal? Inflammation can lead to minor swelling that can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and can become more frequent with time.
Without treatment, joint inflammation can also affect your tendons and ligaments. This can lead to serious complications, like deformity and instability, making it difficult to bend or straighten certain joints. Tendon inflammation can also increase pressure on surrounding nerves, leading to burning, tingling, or numbness in your hands.
Since rheumatoid arthritis involves your immune system, it can also disrupt your sleep and lead to flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, low-grade fever, and loss of appetite. However, these symptoms usually appear in tandem with other signs of rheumatoid arthritis, like joint pain.
Fortunately, the right treatment can help keep these symptoms under control and minimize flare-ups.
If you think you have rheumatoid arthritis, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. We’re ready to help at one of our convenient offices in New Jersey or New York. Just call us or request an appointment online today.