Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes severe pain and can permanently damage the joints. It is often difficult to diagnose, as its symptoms sometimes mimic other diseases. The symptoms may flare and fade, then flare again in another part of the body. Laboratory testing is imperfect; patients sometimes test negative for RA factors even though they have the disease. The physical damage is only visible in X-rays after the fact.
A recent article in Health.com highlights eight little-known symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:
1. Injuries that are difficult to heal – Sometimes what appears to be an injury is actually RA. Some patients have had repeated treatment for what they thought was an ankle or knee injury, only to discover later the problem was actually rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Tingling or numbness in the hands – This symptom can signal carpel tunnel syndrome, which is often a side effect of RA. Be sure to tell your doctor about all possible symptoms, as patients often receive an incomplete diagnosis.
3. Foot pain – Rheumatoid arthritis often creates inflammation and pain in the forefoot. RA can also result in plantar fasciitis, swelling and pain of the tissues at the bottom of the foot by the heel.
4. Eye problems – Rheumatoid arthritis sometimes causes Sjogrens syndrome, another autoimmune disorder that creates dryness in the eyes, mouth, nose, throat or skin caused by inflammation.
5. Pairs of painful joints – Aching in the joints is the classic RA symptom. People who have not been diagnosed with RA often dismiss joint pain as being caused by overexertion, fibromyalgia, or osteoarthritis, which is the type of arthritis often experienced by older people.
The pain from RA usually lasts longer than a week, and it frequently occurs in pairs of joints, such as both hands, feet, knees or ankles.
6. Morning stiffness – People with RA often experience stiffness of the joints in the morning, and that can be misdiagnosed as osteoarthritis. The difference is that the stiffness from RA will last longer, perhaps all day.
7. Locked joints – RA sometimes causes locked joints, especially knees and elbows. The condition happens because of all the swelling of the tendons around the joint, preventing the joint from bending. This swelling can also cause cysts behind the knee that swell up and interfere with motion.
8. Nodules – Nodules are firm lumps that appear under the skin near the affected joints. They can show up at the back of elbows, and sometimes they appear in the eyes.