I Have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

For many people, a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is a frightening experience. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, involving the inflammation of the joints. There are three stages of this illness, with each one involving a steady loss of mobility. However, recognizing the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can start you on medical treatment that can drastically diminish the progression of this disease.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about one percent of the population in the United States. Chronic inflammation in the joints is its trademark characteristic, with this condition leading to permanent damage to the joints, chronic pain and eventually a serious loss of mobility. The early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are sometimes vague and may mimic those of other less serious diseases. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis and since this is a systemic disease, other organs of the body may also be affected. An prompt diagnosis is critical to limit the damage caused by this type of arthritis. Patients who receive early and aggressive treatments experience a higher quality of life, with a lower chance of having surgery.

What Are the Early Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be detected by carefully listening to your body's messages. One of the earliest symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is joint pain that slowly develops over a period of time. Fatigue and stiffness often accompany this stage. Occasionally, patients report weight loss and a chronic low grade fever. Since this disease progresses in three recognizable stages, it's critical to seek treatment immediately after determining the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. At this point in the illness, the lining of the joints begin to swell, causing pain accompanied by redness and a sensation of warmth. Usually, the same joints on both sides of the body are affected in a symmetrical pattern. Nodules or small bumps may appear on the joints and are reported by a third of arthritis sufferers. Numbness and tingling in the hands may also be considered an early symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Since this disease affects other organs in the body, if your doctor suspects rheumatoid arthritis, you will be given a complete physical exam, including lab tests and X-rays. Special attention will be paid to your skin, lungs and eyes.

Although rheumatoid arthritis is indeed a serious disease, research has produced effective, new drugs, and physical therapy programs that include exercise and self-management techniques. Current advancements in the medical field are now offering people with rheumatoid arthritis more satisfying lives with higher success rates.