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Could Your Pain Be Caused By Rheumatoid Arthritis? Watch Out for the Early Warning Signs

written by: Harry Sylvester • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/31/2011

Swollen and painful joints are two characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis. This disease is very progressive, making it possible for it to spread to other joints. Find out more about the early signs of this condition and find out if they could be causing your pain.

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    What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

    Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease primarily affecting joints and tendons. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system makes an assault on your body’s tissues instead of defending it. In people without this condition, inflammation is an effective way of fighting disease. In people with RA, inflammation occurs in the joints and tendons, leading to pain and other symptoms. The attacks can come and go or last for months. The speed of progression varies from one person to another.

    This disease leads to damaged cartilage and bone around the joints with unbearable pain. It affects any joint, but the wrists, fingers, and toes are the first targets, even though it can also affect your shoulders and knees in early stages. The disorder less commonly attacks the elbows, neck, and hips. The joint becomes swollen, which makes the inflamed tissues get painful and stiff. If not diagnosed and treated, this inflammation can damage the affected joints. Furthermore, the disease might progress and spread to other joints as well.

    Here are some of the common beginning signs of rheumatoid arthritis:

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    Flare-ups

    You can have a flare-up any time when inflammation gets more active. At this time, it will feel very difficult to get up and move in the morning. It is suggested you take anti-inflammatory drugs or painkillers when this happens. Resting the painful joint in a neutral position, with a splint for example, can help much minimize any damage. Cold and heat can also be helpful to alleviate the pain in the joint.

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    Morning Stiffness

    This disorder really reduces your range of motion, beginning with stiffness in the morning. The affected joint does not move well like it did before. It might take more than an hour to have a stiff joint feel loose. This stiffness can also worsen after sitting still for a long time. Your daily activities may be eventually problematic.

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    Systemic Symptoms

    Several symptoms such as fatigue, numbness and tingling in the hands, sleep deprivation, loss of appetite, weight loss and mild fever are associated with the disease. Although those symptoms seem like those of the flu, systemic symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis may last longer.

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    Redness and Swelling

    Inflammation makes the lining of the affected joint painful to touch, hot and swollen. Before you are diagnosed with the disease, you may experience pain and swelling in the joints for six weeks.

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    Lumps or Nodules

    Lumps or nodules are due to the inflammation of small blood vessels. Those lumps occur under your skin and range in size from a pea to a mothball. They come up over pressure points in your body such as the knuckles, elbows, lower leg bones and spine. Lumps can be painful and infected at times.

    When you suffer from these symptoms, it is advised that you contact your health care provider immediately to stop progression of this disease.

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    References

    The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society: What is RA? - http://www.nras.org.uk/about_rheumatoid_arthritis/what_is_ra/what_is_ra.aspx

    The Arthritis Care: Rheumatoid Arthritis - http://www.arthritiscare.org.uk/AboutArthritis/Conditions/Rheumatoidarthritis

    WebMD: Rheumatoid Arthritis – Symptoms - http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/tc/rheumatoid-arthritis-symptoms



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