12 Early Warning Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Hands of Old Man Showing Rheumatoid Arthritis

A form of inflammatory arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), affects most commonly the hands, wrists, and knees, while any joint can be affected. Other bodily systems, such as the skin, eyes, heart, and blood vessels, can also be damaged by RA.

The immune system attacks the joints in Rheumatoid Arthritis, causing pain and swelling. There is severe inflammation associated with the disease.

RA can lead to bone erosion and deformities of the joints if left untreated. Inflammation can also lead to various other health problems. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment of RA are crucial due to the risk of damage to joints and other body parts.

Let’s discuss the earliest symptoms RA patients may experience.

Early Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA is characterised by pain and stiffness in the joints. Several early warning signs may occur before these symptoms occur.

There are early warning signs related to how a person feels overall and early warning signs specific to joints. If a person’s joints are affected, especially if they are affected on both sides or in more than one joint, RA is more likely to be diagnosed.

Patients seeking treatment at the earliest opportunity can benefit from spotting these warning signs. 

The following are early signs of RA:

Fatigue

Because RA affects the body as a whole, it has a widespread impact. It can cause inflammation in your joints and throughout the rest of your body, which can cause fatigue. Although this symptom is not specific to RA, persistent tiredness and lack of energy are common among people with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the beginning of the disease.

Having fluctuating or worsening joint symptoms, excessive fatigue, and a lack of energy could indicate you should visit your doctor. Fatigue, along with other symptoms listed here and depression (which can overlap with fatigue), can be early warning signs.

Slight Fever

People with RA may feel unwell and experience fever because of its inflammation. Fatigue is sometimes accompanied by a slight rise in temperature, which is an early sign. The temperature rise may occur well before any joint problems become apparent.

Malaise 

Symptoms of malaise include feeling uncomfortable or ill overall.2 It includes symptoms like weakness, nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to smells, and fatigue.

Malaise is one of the earliest signs of RA, caused by the immune system attacking body tissues, resulting in inflammation, pain, and swelling. All of these effects make you feel tired and lethargic.

Morning Stiffness

A common symptom of many types of arthritis, including RA, is morning stiffness. You may have an RA flare if certain joints feel stiff when you wake up, and the stiffness lasts more than 30 minutes. Joints that have been subjected to prolonged activity may feel more mobile.

Stiffness

Stiff joints also characterise Rheumatoid Arthritis. Some people experience stiffness in one or two small joints, frequently in the fingers. Swelling often occurs gradually, lasting for a few days.

RA may also cause stiffness in the body as a whole and stiffness that affects specific joints.

A person usually experiences this type of stiffness after sitting still for quite some time. Patients with RA complain of morning stiffness because of this symptom. It can be:

  • An unexpected pain
  • involving joint stiffness that is distinct from muscle pain 
  • lasting long periods of time
  • and involving hand, wrist, and ankle stiffness

Limping

Limping occurs in RA patients with hips, knees, ankles, or feet affected by the disease. RA in the early stages is less likely to cause limping since the larger joints are not affected, or the swelling at the ankles and feet is not significant enough.

Occasionally, people with early RA may experience severe pain, dysfunction, and swelling of their joints, causing them to limp. An early sign of the disease can be a painless limp in small children.

Weight Loss

The relationship between joint pain and weight loss often goes unnoticed because they seem unconnected. In the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis, persons experience unexplained weight loss and fatigue. Inflammation caused by a tissue attack is responsible for this problem. You lose your appetite when you are exhausted and feverish, thus losing some weight.

Decrease in Range of Motion

You know what’s within reach and what’s within your reach. You may notice that you can no longer reach high shelves or tie your shoes as easily as you used to, which could be an early signal of RA. Losing mobility is a normal part of ageing. However, when RA causes it, it is because of painful joints and possibly nerve pain.

Loss of movement can lead to unhealthy habits that make a living with Rheumatoid Arthritis even more difficult. You can gain weight if you stop exercising because of pain in small joints, for example. RA symptoms can worsen as a result.

Moreover, moving less makes it worse. In people living with RA, physical therapy is often used to strengthen muscles and improve range of motion.

Tingling and Numbness

You may feel tender when pressing your joints and find it difficult to perform even basic tasks like walking and moving objects. Nerves can also be overloaded by inflammation of the tissues. Due to this condition, your hands and feet can become numb, tingly, and tender.

Joint Redness

Over inflamed joints, redness is sometimes evident on the skin. An inflammatory reaction causes the skin’s capillaries (little blood vessels) to enlarge (dilate). There isn’t always redness around joints, especially if inflammation is mild.

Joint Swelling 

One of the first warning signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis is mild joint swelling, which you may also have dismissed. It can cause swelling throughout the body whenever this type of arthritis flares up. Your joints may become warm as they swell. This is caused by inflammation.

If not treated, this mild swelling will only worsen over time. Symptoms like this are unpredictable. They can last for weeks or even months. Additionally, the pain symptoms can intensify over time and become more frequent. As a result, you’re more likely to develop RA complications such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Radiating Warmth

An inflammatory reaction causes warmth in the joint and may appear before redness or swelling. Take a finger or the back of a hand and place it on a nearby bone, then on the joint. If the joint is warmer than other parts of the body, especially if other symptoms accompany it, it might indicate RA. This may not make RA obvious to the eye.

Treatment plan

Rheumatoid arthritis has no cure. The good news is that the progression of RA can be slowed with effective treatment options. Self-care is, of course, an important part of the treatment process. Symptoms can also be eased with physical therapy and certain medications known as anti-rheumatic drugs by pharmaceutical API manufacturers

One such drug, Baricitinib, or Olumiant, is prescribed for Rheumatoid Arthritis. This medication inhibits Janus kinase enzymes, which are responsible for causing inflammation in the body, and causes Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms.

Swelling, pain, and stiffness are common symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis that can be relieved with baricitinib, which also helps slow joint damage. Many patients will notice some improvement within 12 weeks of undergoing this treatment.

Lastly, improve your overall health and strengthen your immune system. 

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