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Rheumatoid Arthritis : Symptoms

Jul 19, 2008
Rheumatoid arthritis afflicts millions of people and can significantly reduce one's quality of life. The early symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis include pain, redness and swelling in the small joints (typically the hands and/or feet) on both sides of the body.

Unlike osteoarthritis which causes pain and stiffness because the cartilage that normally prevents the bones in the joints from rubbing together is wearing away, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are caused by an inflammation of the membrane that normally lubricates and protects the joints. In addition to the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis, small nodules or lumps may be present under the skin near the joints.

Symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis can differ from individual to individual, and there is no single test for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. The most common complaint heard by medical practitioners is the daily joint pain and the significant level of pain, both of which can adversely impact your quality of life and ability to take care of even the most basic daily tasks.

Swollen, painful, tender and stiff joints are usually associated with rheumatoid arthritis. They are more or less symmetrically affected, i.e. the same joints on both sides and all over the body like the hands, elbows, knees, hands and the wrists.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in a symmetrical pattern, for example if the right knee is affected, then the left knee will be affected also. Although it is quite common for an individual to be more inflamed and affected than another. Extreme fatigue, weight loss, fever, swollen, red and warm joints and an overall feeling of malaise are common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Some less common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include: inflammation of the lining around the heart and lungs, inflammation of the tear and salivary glands, and in rare cases, general inflammation of the lungs and blood vessels. While the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are confined to the joints, other systems of the body can also be affected, particularly if it is not treated.

Since rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the whole-body immune reaction to a problem that is localized, it can affect any joint/joints irrespective of the fact that they are weight-bearing or not. Also, it usually affects the smaller joints like the hands, balls of the feet, wrists or elbows. But there are quite a few exceptions to this.

Cox-2 inhibitors have also been used to treat the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis, but some have dangerous side effects and may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The early symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis may be treated with corticosteroids, but these are not used for long term care, because they become ineffective and may lead to thinning of the bones, weight gain and diabetes.
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