Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints. Because it is a systemic condition, there are often other symptoms experienced throughout the body. The early stages of RA include symptoms that are similar to some other conditions. It causes painful, swollen joints, and can lead to permanent deformity and a loss to range of motion if not properly diagnosed and treated in time.
As we all know this flu season, fever and fatigue, general soreness, and feeling run down are symptoms of influenza as well as rheumatoid arthritis. Also, symptoms of RA may come and go, making it even harder to recognize a pattern.
Some other conditions where symptoms can be mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Lyme disease
- Psoriatic arthritis
The diagnostic criteria for these complex conditions are not always clear, especially in the beginning stages of the disease. Your doctor may not be able to tell which condition you have at first. A physical exam will often be followed by blood work and possibly diagnostic imaging. To diagnose RA, blood tests can show if there is an elevated level of proteins that indicate the presence of inflammation. Testing can also show rheumatoid factor and antibodies found in people who have RA.
If you have RA, your immune system attacks the synovium, or lining of the inside of the joints. This causes inflammation and a thickening of the synovium that eventually destroys the cartilage within the joint. It has not been proven exactly what causes RA, but it is a chronic condition that requires a lifetime of careful medical management.
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Stiffness, swelling, or tenderness in the joints
- Joints are warm to the touch
- Change in appetite and weight loss
While several of these symptoms might not seem so urgent or frightening, each treatable or manageable in their own way, rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that you want to get under control as quickly as possible. The escalation of pain and possible joint deformity are possibilities that your doctor can help you avoid, if the condition is diagnosed early.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are associated with the early stages of RA, and live in the Pacific Northwest, call Lynx Healthcare. Our expert providers are experienced in diagnosing and treating rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic conditions. We have clinics throughout Washington and Oregon. Find the location nearest you for personal care from top-quality specialists.