Arthritis refers to a painful condition that tends to affect the joints of the body, causing stiffness and general discomfort. It is, unfortunately, a very common condition, especially for those who are older. Different types of arthritis cause different types of problems. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), for example, is an autoimmune disease that results from an attack on the joints from the body’s immune system. Generally, it starts out in the small, fine joints, like those of the hands, but it doesn’t take long to spread to other areas. At this time, there is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
In spreading throughout the body, RA may create other problems as well, directly and indirectly. RA can cause pain in other joints, such as the knees, the elbows, the back, the neck, the ankles, and even certain muscle groups. However, there are other issues that may develop alongside RA. Constant inflammation from attack, for example, can create complications for the body, such as damage to important organs, such as the heart, lungs and blood vessels. Because of RA’s nature as a progressive disease, the longer it goes on, the more likely some of these other complications will arise from it.
Monitoring Your Symptoms
As with any other medical condition, it’s critical that you keep an eye on your symptoms as they develop. This can greatly improve your quality of life on a day to day basis, and allows you to alert a medical professional when something new arises. While RA cannot be cured, if new symptoms are tackled immediately, the damage they can do may be limited. Because of this, keeping track of obvious things, like an increase in pain, as well as less conspicuous things, like a little more stiffness somewhere you’re not used to, becomes very important for your ongoing health.
In this self-monitoring, the appearance of new symptoms is just as important as the development of existing symptoms. Both can mean changes to your plan for dealing with RA. Your doctor will depend on this information in order to adjust your plan and ensure that you receive the proper treatment. Knowing all of the details about what is ‘normal’ and what is not for your body will put you in a better position to have these conversations about RA, and really, any other illnesses as well, with your doctor so that you both can become better informed about the situation.
What to look for
There are a number of fairly common things to keep in mind when assessing RA. Obviously, pain comes to mind. Keeping track of when and where pain occurs, as well as the severity of the pain, and its duration are key. You might also consider any stiffness, or other unusual occurrences that happen in the same areas of the body or at the same time. They may be related to RA, even if they don’t seem like it. Here are some obvious, and not so obvious, symptoms associated with RA of which you should watch and keep your doctor informed: