Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease with hallmark symptoms of inflammation and resulting pain. It is a disease process (like cancer or diabetes) where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy joints. It is a relatively common disease-approximately 300,000 or 1 in 100 Canadians get it-and is often devastating to a person's body if not treated properly.
The disease process causes swelling and pain in and around joints and can affect the body's organs, including the eyes, lungs, and heart. Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly affects the hands and feet. Other joints often affected include the elbows, shoulders, neck, jaw, ankles, knees, and hips. When moderate to severe, the disease reduces a person's life span by as much as a dozen years.
Below are ten rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, as listed in this WebMD's article, that may indicate something more serious:
- Shortness of breath or chest pain - This could be an early indication of possible heart attacks and heart failures. It may also be red flags for lung infection. You should consult with your physician if you experience these problems.
- Numbness or tingling - This could be an indication of nerve damage caused by inflammation in connective tissues. The inflammation causes swelling in tissues, especially around the wrist area. If untreated, you could develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Inability to move or raise your hand or foot - If this symptom arise suddenly, seek emergency treatment immediately as it may lead to permanent paralysis.
- Spots on or around your fingertips - If you see red or black spots on or around your fingernails, it may be an indication that inflamed small blood vessels in that area have died. Consult with your rheumatologist as this may lead to losing fingers or toes.
- Red, inflamed eyes - If your eye feels dry or irritated, you may use eye drops to dissipate the problem. However, sudden severe pain and redness of the eyes is abnormal and indicate the deeper part of your eye may be affected.
- Tummy troubles - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen is the culprit of stomach problems. Prolonged stomach problems can cause stomach ulcers. You should also be wary if you observe black or bloody stool or become nauseated.
- High fever and other signs of infection - Symptoms include high fever greater than 101 or 102 degrees Fahrenheit, unexplained cough and experiencing extreme heat, observing redness or feeling more pain in a particular area of the skin. As people with rheumatoid arthritis have lower tolerance to infections, you should seek medical condition if you suspect you have an infection.
- Feeling blah - If you do not feel like yourself and experience a loss of energy, night sweats, sudden weight loss or unexplained fatigue, it may be an indication that your treatment therapy needs to be updated or changed.
- Bone Fracture - This may be warning signs of the onset of osteoporosis. Risks of bone fracture increase if you take prednisone to treat your rheumatoid arthritis.
- Suddenly bruising easily - If you observe this symptom, you could be experiencing a complication from rheumatoid arthritis that lowers your blood platelet. As a result, they may lead to severe bleeding when you cut or bruise yourself.