If you continually experience pain in your joints, especially in the hands, wrists, or knees, you may be one of the 1.5 million Americans suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Commonly known as RA, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy joint tissue, causing it to become inflamed. This inflammation leads to the destruction of the joint tissue over time.
Who Is At-Risk For Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Did you know that women in Charlotte, and North Carolina in general, are much more likely to suffer from arthritis than men? In the Tar Heel State, approximately 26 – 34 percent of women will be affected by arthritis, while only 21 – 23 percent of men will be. In addition to gender being a risk factor, a person is more likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis if they:
- Are 40+ years of age
- Have a family history of RA
- Are overweight or obese
- Smoke cigarettes
5 Common Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms to Watch Out For
In most cases, symptom severity will start out mild and get progressively pronounced as time goes on.
Fatigue from RA goes beyond simple tiredness or sleepiness. Even with an adequate amount of sleep and rest, the inflammation and pain caused by the disease can make it extremely difficult to find the energy to do some of even the simplest tasks.
Pain or Stiffness in the Morning
Just after waking up, it’s completely normal to feel a bit groggy, and experience muscle tightness. But when these symptoms last 30 minutes or longer, it could be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis. In more advanced stages of RA, this stiffness could last most of the day.
More Than One Joint is Affected
It’s pretty common for an older person to have a knee that acts up every once in a while, or maybe a sore hip from an old injury. When pain or discomfort is felt in multiple sets of joints, it could be a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis.
RA tends to affect areas in pairs. For example, if one wrist hurts, chances are the other one will too. Or, if one knee is tight and has lost mobility, the other knee is likely to exhibit the same symptoms.
There are Issues With Your Eyes, Mouth, or Skin
The inflammation caused by RA can affect more than just your joints. Some sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis may experience:
- Eye issues: dry eye, eye redness, or a loss of visual acuity
- Symptoms of the mouth: gum infections, gum redness, chronic dryness, or bleeding gums
- Skin bumps: nodules may be felt in the skin over bony areas
Pain Moves From Smaller Joints to Larger Ones
During the early stages of the disease, small joints in the fingers and toes are the most likely to be affected. Over time, this pain can travel to the wrists, ankles, and knees.
When Should I See a Rheumatologist?
If your doctor suspects that you may have RA, or you are experiencing any of the symptoms outlined above, do not delay in making an appointment with a rheumatoid arthritis specialist. Since the disease is degenerative, it can cause life-long symptoms that can’t be reversed. In fact, RA is a leading cause of work disability.
The Joint Muscle Care Medical Care and Research Institute is your go-to resource for rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and treatment in the Queen City. We have two convenient Rheumatology offices in Charlotte – so, whether you’re near Ballantyne or Uptown, we offer the experience and expertise to find a treatment plan that is right for you.