Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition that affects the joints, especially in the hands and knees. It is characterized by painful swelling, and occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. In the U.S., there are about 1.3 million patients living with RA.
There is currently no cure for RA, but certain treatments and lifestyle choices can prolong the period between flare ups and relieve pain and inflammation. Recognizing the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis will allow you to start treatment as soon as possible, helping you manage the condition and live a pain-free life.
Joint tenderness is an early symptom of RA, and is often first felt in the hands and feet. Your hand may feel tender when you move it or put pressure on it. The wrist may be painful and swollen, making it difficult for you to bend the wrist back.
Pay special attention to the joints in the middle and at the base of the fingers, particularly if you experience tenderness in more than one joint at a time, and on both sides of the body at once.
In the feet, the joints are often especially tender at the base of the toes, which may force you to walk on your heels or lift your toes when you walk. Your heels might be painful, too.
Swelling and redness
In addition to tenderness and painful joints, you may experience redness or swelling due to the inflammation of the joints. Watch for swelling and redness on the tops of your feet and in your hands. Your joints might feel warm or stiff, and their range of motion may be more limited than usual.
Numb, tingling joints
Numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers are another early symptom of RA. This is caused by the inflamed joints pressing against nerves. If you experience severe tingling, burning, or a loss of sensation or function in the affected area, seek medical attention.
Weakness or fatigue / weight loss
RA can make you feel more tired than usual. It can also make your hands and joints feel weak, making it difficult to perform certain actions. This can sometimes lead to weight loss.
Other symptoms of RA
The joint inflammation caused by RA can lead to a low-grade fever in some patients. You may also experience anemia, limping, joint deformity, lumps or bumps on the skin and/or hands, and joint pain.
Treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis
A cure for RA has not yet been developed. But by spotting the warning signs and seeking treatment early, you can prevent further damage to your joints, reduce inflammation as much as possible, manage the pain, and increase your joint function. Treatment options include anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, surgery, self-care (such as using heating pads or warm baths to soothe the joints), and alternative therapies.
At the Spine & Joint Center, our specialists are experienced providers of alternative therapies. Our safe, minimally-invasive treatment options have helped many patients living with RA experience relief from pain and an increased quality of life. Contact us today to find out more.