Early recognition of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and rapid treatment are critical to achieving disease control and preventing joint damage leading to disability. 
It has been shown that treatment, including anti-rheumatic drugs and new biologicals, slows down and prevents joint damage and allows many patients with RA to lead a full and active life. This article will look at the early signs of rheumatoid arthritis.

The problem with early recognition of RA is that the disease can be difficult to distinguish from other types of arthritis associated with inflammation. In most patients, RA can begin with changes and signs that are small and seem insignificant. It may take several weeks or months before the symptoms become severe enough to seek medical attention. The distinguishing characteristics of RA, including joint erosion, the formation of nodules and manifestations of RA that occur outside the joints (extra-articular), usually affect patients who have had the disease for a long time.

What are the early signs of rheumatoid arthritis

The early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which can be preceded by noticeable joint pain and stiffness, include fatigue, numbness, and tingling in the hands, muscle pain, a slight fever, and weight loss. In some cases, the onset of RA can include inflammation in the tissues, with the exception of joints, including the lungs (shortness of breath) and the heart (chest pain).

Early signs of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Fatigue: weakness that affects the ability to perform normal daily activities.
  • Numbness and tingling: effects on hands and fingers.
  • Fever: fever caused by inflammation.
  • Weight loss: unexplained weight loss, possibly due to weakness and fatigue.
  • Soreness of the arm when moving or applying pressure (especially the joint in the middle of the fingers and at the base of the fingers).
  • Possible redness or inflammation affecting the entire arm.
  • Soreness of the foot joint at the base of the toes (can cause the patient to walk on the heel or raise the toes up).
  • Swelling and redness in the upper part of the foot.
  • Pain in the heel.
  • Wrist pain and swelling make it difficult to bend the wrist back.  Medication for rheumatoid arthritis .

Early symptoms. Key features of rheumatoid arthritis that your doctor will look for include pain and swelling in the joints affected by this disease. The pain will be apparent as tenderness when pressure is applied to the external area or when the joint moves. Edema due to fluid accumulation in the joint cavity and thickening of the joint tissue will put pressure on the joint, which is often described as a “marshy” sensation. In addition, the joints involved may feel hot and red, as signs of active inflammation.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually has a characteristic articular lesion, with the same joints on both sides of the affected body (this symmetrical pattern may not appear in the early stages of the disease). In the early stages of RA, small joints tend to be more affected than large joints. For example, joints located at the base of the fingers and toes and joints located in the middle of the fingers. However, in some patients, it may begin with pain in a large joint (shoulder or knee), which moves from one joint to another and comes and goes.  How to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis ?

Hands. In many patients, hand joints are the first to be affected by RA. The joints will be painful when they are compressed or when moving, and a decrease in compressive strength may be apparent. Some patients may experience a noticeable swelling and redness affecting the entire arm.

The wrist. Among the joints in the hand, the wrist is most often affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Even in the early stages of the disease, it may be difficult for the patient to bend his wrist back.

Elbow. In RA, the elbow can become inflamed and swollen, causing compression of the nerve, which leads to numbness and tingling of the fingers.

Leg. Legs, like hands, are often affected in the early stages of RA. The upper part of the foot may become red and swollen. Joints at the base of the toes can become painful, which makes it painful to walk and make the patient carry weight on his heels and tilt his fingers upward while standing or walking. In some patients, the heel can also become painful.

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