Rheumatoid arthritis may develop over several months to years, showing subtle symptoms before manifesting into painful joints. Identifying the early and unusual symptoms can help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis at an early stage, allowing for timely treatment and preventive measures to slow down the progression of the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your body’s immune system attacks various joints and tissues. While it mostly affects the joints, including hands and legs, the disease may also affect internal organs like the lungs and heart.
Usually, painful or stiff joints are the often-heard classic symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are less common, less heard-of, unsuspecting symptoms that may hint you have rheumatoid arthritis. From dry eyes and mouth to low-grade fever and shortness of breath, these symptoms are quite misleading.
But why do you need to know them? Because early diagnosis of the condition helps you manage it effectively. So read on to know the uncommon or unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Why is it important to know the unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is not curable, and when it is diagnosed early, the disease can be better managed, and the progression can be slowed down. Hence, knowing the unusual or less common symptoms becomes important to diagnose the condition early.
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What are the unusual symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Think Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA); most remember swollen joints and morning stiffness. But there can be other symptoms you may never connect to rheumatoid arthritis. The following are ten such symptoms, and knowing them can help you start treating the condition early.
1. Rheumatoid nodules
They are hard, firm lumps under the skin that typically form near joints, such as elbows, knuckles, hands, and fingers. Though rheumatoid nodules occur only after the patient already presents with symptoms like pain and swelling, in rare cases, the nodules can be the first symptom of RA.
2. Pervasive fatigue
Fatigue can be an elusive RA symptom. Often overlooked, a profound sense of tiredness, physical exhaustion, and mental fatigue can signal underlying RA inflammation.
3. Dry eyes and mouth
Sjogren’s syndrome often accompanies rheumatoid arthritis. It is an autoimmune disorder with two most common symptoms – dry eyes and a dry mouth. This is because the moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth are affected first, resulting in reduced tears and saliva and causing dry eyes and mouth.
4. Low-grade fever
Are you getting regular bouts of low-grade fever? These could be your body’s reaction to RA inflammation. So, get checked for RA in case of recurring low-grade fever.
5. Loss of appetite and weight loss
Inflammation due to rheumatoid arthritis can cause loss of appetite, which is another early indicator of rheumatoid arthritis. The loss of appetite may result in significant weight loss as well.
6. Sleep problems
Other symptoms of RA, such as fever, fatigue, and mental exhaustion, can impact sleep cycles as well. As a result, you may experience difficulty falling asleep and poor quality of sleep.
7. Chronic cough and shortness of breath
Rheumatoid arthritis may affect the lungs, even before causing pain or swelling in joints. Hence, if you are experiencing chronic cough or unexplained breathing problems, it is better to get checked for RA.
8. Neurological Symptoms
Some people may experience peripheral neuropathy, causing tingling or numb sensation in the arms, fingers, legs, and toes. This might be due to nerve damage caused by RA.
9. Depression and Anxiety
An often overlooked but significant aspect of RA is its impact on mental health. Inflammation due to RA may cause other symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, and fever. This, in turn, may result in reduced energy and disrupted daily routine, causing anxiety and depression in the individual.
Chronic inflammation due to RA can hinder the body’s ability to use iron, resulting in the bone marrow making fewer red blood cells. This can cause anaemia, a condition in which there are not adequate red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.
What are the next steps after knowing that you have Rheumatoid Arthritis?
To know that you have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) can feel daunting, but it’s important to know that you can manage it effectively. While RA cannot be cured, it can certainly be managed with the right knowledge and support. Here’s what you need to do to manage RA effectively:
- Educate yourself about your condition: Learn about your symptoms, causes, and treatments. Talk to your doctor about your concerns. It is essential to understand what’s happening to your body so that you can manage your condition effectively.
- Tailor your lifestyle to your needs: Eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying physically active, and getting enough sleep are all key. Regular exercise will help reduce inflammation, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. In addition, avoid unhealthy habits such as smoking, as this can worsen your symptoms.
- Join support groups: Surround yourself with supportive people who understand what you are going through. Connect with people going through similar experiences who may share experiences and advice with empathy.
- Therapies and medications: Following your doctor’s advice and taking prescribed medications is important. Complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, yoga, massage, aromatherapy, Tai chi, hydrotherapy, etc., have been proven to give significant relief. Find out what works for you and incorporate them into your disease management routine.
The bottom line
Any health condition, when diagnosed early, has the benefit of better management. The same is true with rheumatoid arthritis. It is always good to listen to your body, and when you find unusual symptoms, how subtler they may be, discuss them with your doctor and find out if they are due to rheumatoid arthritis.