Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 Americans. It can be a debilitating disease. Sixty percent of people who are not adequately treated will not be able to work 10 years after being diagnosed, according to Healthline.com.
It is important to watch for the warning signs, so you can get the right treatment. Once you are diagnosed, you can start a treatment plan that will allow you to live as normal life as possible.
RA is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing damage, pain and swelling.
The damage usually starts in the lining of the smaller joints like the fingers and the toes, and can progress to larger joints like the ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders and hips. Over time, if the inflammation is not controlled, it will cause deformity and alteration of function in that joint.
There will usually be pain in the same joint on both sides of the body. Since it is an inflammatory disease, there can be periods of flare-ups and remission.
There are warning signs that let you know whether you are having an RA attack. If you notice that you have all of the warning signs, schedule an appointment with your rheumatologist or your primary care giver to get some lab tests for RA.
Here are 5 very typical warning signs:
1) If you have puffiness or swelling in your fingers, wrists, hands, feet, ankles or knees then you are having an inflammatory response. In RA, the response can be painful and severe. The fluid fills the joint spaces and enlarges them.
2) Do you wake up in the morning feeling stiff? Does it take 30 minutes, an hour, or sometimes two hours before it goes away? This is another symptom of arthritis. It is a good one to share with your doctor to make sure you are not confusing it with another illness or an injury.
3) A constant feeling of fatigue or tiredness is a symptom of many chronic diseases. However, in rheumatoid arthritis, the fatigue can be so overwhelming that you go to your physician to seek help.
4) The pain or the tenderness in the joints is one of the key symptoms of RA. It will show up in both sides of your body, so you will have pain in both knees or wrists, for instance, rather than just in one.
If your symptoms are the ones listed here, share them with your doctor to help you make your diagnosis and get started on your treatment!
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This was originally posted on EmpowHer.com.