The second most common form of arthritis in the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects over 400,000 people. It is an autoimmune condition that causes joint inflammation resulting in pain, stiffness and fatigue.
Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and what they can mean for your health
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the body, although it is often initially felt in the small joints in the hands and feet. The condition can progress quickly, meaning early diagnosis and treatment are extremely important.
The most common signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are joint pain, joint swelling, warmth and redness. You may feel stiffness, especially first thing in the morning or after sitting for long periods of time. Other symptoms can include feeling unusually tired or a general lack of energy in getting on with your daily routine. Poor appetite and weight loss are also common.
These symptoms can be signs of other conditions as well, so it is important you speak with your healthcare provider to determine the cause if you are experiencing them.
Managing and understanding your condition if you have rheumatoid arthritis
People with rheumatoid arthritis may mention a ‘flare-up’, a term that describes what happens when someone’s symptoms get worse. It can often happen at a time of stress or if someone has had an infection.
The pain and fatigue caused by rheumatoid arthritis can impact your ability to work, to be able to go out and socialise with friends or to care for your family. Dr Devi Sagar, Research Liaison Manager at Versus Arthritis says, “We know that for many of the 400,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis in the UK, the fluctuating nature of the condition can be really hard on them. For many, they can’t predict if they’ll be in pain or able to manage their condition from one day to the next.”
The three main medical treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are drugs, physical therapy and surgery. The drugs used to manage the condition can vary from person to person, with many people taking more than one type of medication. While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, when the immune system is repressed by an effective drug treatment, people living with rheumatoid arthritis can go into remission. However, this may not last forever as the body and its reaction to drugs changes.
Dr Sagar explains “Sometimes, a drug or treatment method can work effectively for years, but it doesn’t last forever. That’s why at Versus Arthritis we’re committed to investing in ground-breaking research that we hope will increase the number of treatments available for rheumatoid arthritis and improve people’s quality of life in the long term.”
The outlook for people with rheumatoid arthritis is improving all the time, as new and more effective treatments become available. You can lead a full and active life with the condition, but it’s important to take your medication as prescribed and to listen to your body and what it may be trying to tell you.
If you’re looking for information or advice on rheumatoid arthritis, go to www.versusarthritis.org. If you would like to speak to someone about advice and support contact our helpline 0800 5200 520 (Monday–Friday, 9am–8pm) or email [email protected]