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The Warning Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis

November 13, 2014

 

Could your hand or foot pain be caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a serious autoimmune disease that is different from osteoarthritis, the type that usually occurs as we get older. Rheumatoid arthritis can sadly strike at any age, and if we do not get diagnosed and treated, you can develop painful crippling and deformity.

A devastating disease that can severely damage your joints, RA also affects other organs and reduces your life expectancy. New up to date treatments are now successful at reducing the joint pain and damage, and makes remission a possibility. But early treatment is essential to avoid permanent joint damage and disability.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether your symptoms are those of RA or the more common “wear and tear” arthritis called osteoarthritis. Either diagnosis should be confirmed by someone who is a Consultant in arthritic diseases, such as a rheumatologist.

Here are some rheumatoid arthritis warning signs and how they differ from the typical signs of osteoarthritis.

- Usually with rheumatoid arthritis, one or more of your finger-knuckle joints are swollen. The swelling is more likely to be in the middle or large knuckles of your hands — not the knuckles at the top of your fingers next to your fingernails. It is often in joints on both hands. The swelling does not feel “bony,” but rather tender and slightly soft. With rheumatoid arthritis, you may also feel warmth and experience redness over the joint.

- If at least one of your middle or large knuckles is swollen and painful for more than 6 weeks, for no reason whatsoever, it could be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis. Large joints such as your ankles, knees, shoulders , or elbows may also be involved, but you must have swelling and pain in at least 2 joints to be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, swelling or pain in your small fingertip knuckles, at the base of your thumbs, and in your big toe joints will more often be due to osteoarthritis.

- The balls of your feet are also prone for rheumatoid arthritis. Often, people with rheumatoid arthritis experience a feeling of “walking on golf balls” or swelling under foot, usually this occurs early in the morning when you are getting out of bed. This pain differs from the pain caused by a bunion. As the pain caused by a bunion is usually at the base of the big toe, and feels much worse when you wear tight footwear.

- You may also notice bumps on your elbows . With rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience flu-like symptoms and tiredness.

Sometimes, small tender bumps or nodules appear under the skin with rheumatoid arthritis, often near the back of the elbow. These are called rheumatoid nodules.

With rheumatoid arthritis your joints are particularly stiff for more than an hour in the morning. With rheumatoid arthritis, you may find it difficult to completely make a clenched fist . You may also have unusually tender swelling on the top of your wrists. If your elbows are involved, it may be difficult to straighten them completely.

- Usually, you won’t have swelling or pain in your hip joints early in the course of rheumatoid arthritis. Painful hip joints more often are due to osteoarthritis, and most people feel the pain in the front of the hip or in the groin region.

Certain blood tests may help determine whether you have rheumatoid arthritis. These are usually undertaken at a hospital after a GP referral.

Arthritis can make cooking difficult, but there are things that you can do to make things easier.

    Plan ahead for your meals to avoid rushing.


    Make tasks easier by using appliances such as mixers, can openers, dishwashers and microwaves.


    Place a mixing bowl in the sink on a damp cloth to hold it in place, and mix while holding the spoon like a dagger.


    Use a secure cutting board to avoid slipping. Cut with an easy to use or grip knife.


    Choose lightweight pans for easier washing and lifting whilst cooking. Apply a nonstick cooking spray.


    Use reachers, cook while sitting on a stool, store foods in easy to reach places and move items on a trolley.