Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition resulting from a swelling of the joint membranes or tissues, usually in the feet and hands, that is most common among people 40-60 years of age. In time, Rheumatoid Arthritis can irreparably damage the tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone surrounding the joints. In the worst case of the condition, RA starts to deteriorate other organs and parts like the eyes, heart, lungs, and nerves.
RA has a number of possible causes; some still not entirely understood, others still a mystery. Though rheumatoid arthritis is classified as an autoimmune disorder, which means the immune system is unable to function properly and attacks its own tissues. Around 1% of the world’s population suffers from the condition, and women are 70% more likely to develop the disease than men.
Typically, a rheumatologist (an autoimmune disease specialist) considers the symptoms, performs a physical exam, and requires lab tests and x-rays to diagnose and plan out a long-term treatment for each patient. Early diagnosis and treatment are imperative to preventing and reducing the risk of further complications.
Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
First symptoms hit the smaller joints in the hands, wrists, and feet, and typically the same joints on each of the body. The most noticeable and common symptom is joint inflammation. Inflammation is normally the human body’s wired reaction to infection and perils, but with RA, it happens haphazardly for no reason.
Joint inflammation comes with its own set of symptoms, one of them being stiffness. Morning stiffness is the most common issue among those with RA and is caused by long durations of inactivity. Patients with other types of arthritis do experience the same symptom, but it takes people with RA up to several hours to before their joints relax. RA inflammation also leads to swelling by allowing fluid to penetrate the joint cavities, which also causes stiffness as well as puffiness. The inflammation may also cause extreme sensitivity and tenderness and sensitivity, which when not tended to leads to more severe pain.
Long-Term Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Because Rheumatoid Arthritis is chronic in nature, some may have extended durations of relief, experiencing fewer or no symptoms when the disease becomes dormant. Whereas, others may constantly have flare-ups and experience symptoms for several months without cease. As the condition advances, some other areas like the elbows, hips, knees, jaw, shoulders, and neck can also become targets. Nodules–small lumps– are also common among 30-35% of people with RA. They can be as large as a walnut or small as a pea. Most often, there is no pain associated with the nodules. The extent to which the symptoms of the condition impact daily activities depends in part on following an appropriate, rigid treatment and coping strategies.
Research shows show that people who follow their treatment to a T and actively take advantage of resources to relieve symptoms experience fewer symptoms and need fewer hospital visits. Long-term Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms increase one’s proneness muscle weakness and fatigue, so getting enough rest is crucial.
Photo: Depositphotos/© suemack