Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a type of arthritis that is considered an autoimmune disease. It can develop at any age and it affects more women than men. Unlike osteoarthritis that is generally the result of aging and "wear and tear" on the joints, producing only local symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis can produce both local and systemic manifestations. If you develop any of the following local or systemic symptoms, make an appointment with a rheumatologist for a comprehensive examination.
Local signs and symptoms refer to the joint manifestations that are seen in rheumatoid arthritis patients. These include joint swelling, tenderness, redness, and heat over the affected joint, limited mobility, decreased, range of motion, and in some cases, joint and cartilage deformities and destruction. Some people have an unusual type of rheumatoid arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis, which in addition to the aforementioned signs and symptoms can also cause an eczema-type rash to appear over the arthritic joints. Both types of rheumatoid arthritis can cause severe morning stiffness, which causes joint pain and immobility when you wake up. The symptoms of morning stiffness typically improve as the day wears on.
In addition to the local symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, you may also develop systemic symptoms as a result of the body attacking its own organs and tissues. Systemic symptoms may include weight loss without trying to lose weight, muscle pain, fatigue, weakness, and fever. The disease may also attack your lungs, raising your risk for respiratory infections, pleural pain, and shortness of breath.
Your risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis-related lung disease may rise if you are a smoker, are an older person, and if you have higher levels of a certain blood protein in your system known as rheumatoid factor.
Other systemic symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include blood in the urine, frequent urinary tract infections, flank pain, nausea, vomiting, and changes in urinary patterns. These symptoms may be attributed to RA-related kidney disease. This type of kidney disease can be associated with both the autoimmune effects of rheumatoid arthritis and the medications used to treat it.
If you experience any of the above local and systemic manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis, make an appointment with a rheumatologist. When RA is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages, you may be less likely to develop permanent joint damage, systemic illnesses, and disability so that you can better participate in your activities of daily living.
For more information, contact a company like Sarasota Arthritis Center.