Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term disease that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. “If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mistakenly sends antibodies to the lining of your joints, where they attack the tissues surrounding the joint,” says the NHS. Some symptoms are more likely to precede others.
Research published in the journal British Society for Rheumatology sought to trace the course of symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis were interviewed retrospectively to discuss their initial experiences before diagnosis, using a tailored assessment form.
The first section of the form dealt with the initial symptoms and the help-seeking behavior of the patients.
Among 94 patients, pain (97 percent), swelling (73 percent), and stiffness (52 percent), usually in multiple joints, were reported as initial symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
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The researchers also identified “frequently reported reasons” why participants visited a healthcare professional.
The most common reason was severe pain (90.4%), followed by difficulty performing daily activities (69%).
What to expect from an appointment with a general practitioner
The NHS explains: “A GP will do a physical exam, check your joints for any swelling and assess how easily they move. The GP will also ask you about your symptoms.”
According to the health care organization, it is important to tell the GP about all your symptoms, not just those that you think are important, as this will help them make the correct diagnosis.
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“If the general practitioner thinks you have rheumatoid arthritis, he will refer you to a specialist (rheumatologist).”
Can rheumatoid arthritis be treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but it can help reduce joint inflammation, relieve pain, and prevent or slow joint damage.
Much of this can be achieved by making lifestyle changes.
Plant-based diets high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fat, sodium and processed foods, may help reduce symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“But most of the research studies supporting this benefit were poorly designed or depended on test subjects’ memories of what they ate, which could be flawed,” notes the health organization.
The benefits may be an indirect result of the weight loss brought on by a healthier diet, he adds.
Losing weight can reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms by relieving pressure on the joints.
Exercise can promote weight loss while providing direct benefits for arthritis management.
Research shows that exercise helps relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and improve daily functioning.
“Stretching is one of the best ways to reduce stiffness and maintain range of motion, and should be part of any exercise program,” advises The Arthritis Foundation (AF).
The health care organization recommends starting with a three to five minute warm-up – you can walk in place and pump your arms while sitting or standing.
“Then stretch and hold different muscles and joints for 10 to 20 seconds before releasing them,” he says.