Your hands and fingers are important parts of your body, allowing you to complete ordinary tasks each day. Due to this constant use, your hands and fingers will most likely develop light aches and pain over time. Unfortunately, learning the difference between normal aches and a more involved medical condition can be difficult. Considering that an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis, understanding this condition of the joints is smart.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in the joints, which can break down the cartilage that connects these joints. While most common in the hands and wrists, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the elbows, knees, and ankles. If you are experiencing one or more of these signs, you may be suffering with rheumatoid arthritis.
Pain and discomfort in and around your joints is the most common sign that you have rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation to the joints and surrounding ligaments and tissue. This inflammation causes fluid to build up, resulting in the swelling of the joints. Inflammation and swelling affects the nerve endings in the tissue and ligaments of your joints, which will lead to intense pain and tenderness.
As fluid builds up and swelling begins, the area around your joints may appear deformed. This is very common in the hands and feet. The swelling may be so severe that you are unable to remove or put a ring on your finger. Your feet may swell, as well, decreasing your ability to wear certain shoes.
The swelling can be so severe that the ligaments may stretch and loosen. This loosening of the joint ligaments could cause an abnormal positioning of the hands and feet. Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis have hands and feet with this level of deformity.
Due to the inflammation, the skin around your joints may appear red, as well. Inflammation of the joints also irritates the capillaries, causing them to dilate. As this occurs, your skin's surface may appear red.
Your joints will also feel stiff, making them difficult to move. This is most common in the mornings, after your joints have rested for a period of time.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, joints may feel stiff for several hours after waking up in the morning.
Since the joint condition causes pain and limits mobility of the joints, fatigue is also a common sign of rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic fatigue that stems from rheumatoid arthritis may feel like you are slowly recovering from an illness, such as the flu. The fatigue affects more than just your joints, since the exhaustion can take over your entire body.
While surprising to learn, fatigue is also a common side effect of many prescription arthritis medications. If you are dealing with chronic fatigue, ask your doctor about a different option to treat your rheumatoid arthritis.
A constant low-grade fever is also a common sign of rheumatoid arthritis. Visiting your doctor to ensure your fever is not stemming from an infection or illness is imperative. If tests reveal you are not sick, the fever is most likely caused from the inflammation of your joints.
When the inflammation develops in your joints, your body will take immediate action to fight off the arthritis. Your immune system will attempt to fight off the inflammation. During this fight, your immune system will develop certain chemicals that increase your body temperature, resulting in a fever.
To heal your fever, consider taking an over-the-counter ibuprofen. However, you will need to seek treatment for your rheumatoid arthritis through mediation or joint replacement surgery. Contact an orthopedic surgeon for information on joint replacement surgery. It is important to note that a fever is a common side effect of some arthritis medications, as well, so work with your doctor to weigh out all of your options.
Rheumatoid arthritis is not a life-threatening condition, but it can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional well-being. With this guide, you will learn the signs of rheumatoid arthritis to better understand if you require treatment for this joint condition.