Muscle aches, joint pain and stiffness are some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. As the condition progresses, it may also inflict damage to other organs of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that affects people in the age group of 30 to 40. Unlike other forms of arthritis that are age-related, RA is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system invades its own body tissues, eventually causing joint problems.
Studies show that joints of the hands and feet are the ones that are affected with RA. However, initially, the symptoms do not necessarily indicate existence of RA but as the condition progresses, the person soon starts experiencing joint problems. It is discussed below:
Early symptoms of this form of arthritis can manifest in the form of excessive tiredness. Fatigue associated with RA simply does not diminish even after taking adequate rest. Flagging energy levels is a common complaint among RA sufferers.
The onset of RA begins with muscle pain and joint stiffness in the morning. This being the initial stage of the disease, morning stiffness subsides significantly, or disappears completely after 3 to 5 hours. Morning stiffness that is usually associated with the hands and the feet, reduces mobility, making it difficult to carry out routine tasks.
Pain and inflammation of joint tissues is a distinct feature of RA. The swelling of the lining of the joints makes them red and painful. This is followed by trouble moving the affected joints. It is observed that joint pain and inflammation, in RA, never affects just one hand or foot. So, if one hand or leg shows RA symptoms, the other one won’t be spared and would soon develop joint problems. With joints becoming stiff and inflamed, going up and down the stairs no longer remains simple. Daily routine tasks like visiting a market place or lifting a grocery bag can also trigger joint pain.
As the disease advances, the patient may show development of rheumatoid nodules. Rheumatoid nodules refer to localized swelling that appear as lumps under the skin. However, these small lumps are not seen in every person suffering from RA. Reports suggest that only ¼ th of the patients complain about these skin lumps that are usually seen on the arm and the elbow.
In the later stages, inflammation of the lining of the joints, starts causing damage to the nearby cartilage and bone. The joint connecting these bones also get deformed, which means they lose their original shape, eventually causing complete destruction of the joints.
As RA is an autoimmune disorder, the symptoms are no longer limited to the joints, and can also cause:
- Pleurisies (Inflammation of the thin serous membrane that surrounds the lungs)
- Pericarditis (Swelling of the thin serous membrane lining the heart)
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Dryness in mouth and eyes resulting from inflammation of the salivary and tear glands
- Itchy, burning sensation in the eyes
- Hoarseness in voice, due to formation of nodules on the vocal cord
The possibility of heart problems, especially heart attack increases in RA patients. Patients are also vulnerable to atherosclerosis, a condition that is typically marked by hardening of the arteries. Neglecting RA treatment may also lead to health complications like stroke and kidney problems. On the whole, RA diagnosis, in the early stages, followed by correct treatment is the key to prevent worsening of this joint problem.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.