Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body by mistake, causing chronic inflammation. Since it is systemic, RA typically affects multiple joints at once. RA tends to come and go, with long-lasting inflammation and symptoms known as flares, which can last for days or months at a time.
RA affects more than the joints. In fact, approximately 40% of people with RA experience signs and symptoms that don’t involve the joints. People with RA frequently feel general fatigue and can even experience a low-grade fever. Affected areas can include skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, nerve tissue, bone marrow, or blood vessels. And, tissue damage done by RA could potentially cause long-lasting or chronic pain, lack of balance, and deformity.
In the early stages of RA, people may not see redness or swelling, but they may experience tenderness and pain. Pain, tenderness, swelling, or stiffness that lasts for six weeks or longer could be an early sign of RA.
Here are some other early symptoms of RA to watch out for:
— Morning stiffness that lasts for 30 minutes or longer
— Multiple joints affected at once
— The same joints affected on both sides of the body
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
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