Have you noticed a few annoying aches and pains in your joints but you generally dismiss them. Watch it! They could be signs of age—or arthritis symptoms. Here’s how to tell the difference.
Joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and grinding joints are all classic arthritis symptoms. However, there are some silent early signs that may initially appear insignificant, but in truth indicate the onset of arthritis.
The first step is understanding the difference between the two main types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a concern for all ages. This autoimmune disease triggers inflammation that attacks the joints, triggering swelling, tenderness, pain, and limited mobility. RA can also target organs.
Osteoarthritis (OA) on the other hand, has similar symptoms to RA like stiffness and joint pain, but it’s brought on by wear and tear on the joints. OA generally only develops later in life, and the symptoms are limited to the joints.
Fatigue is usually one of the first symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis. It can begin weeks or months before other symptoms appear, and is often accompanied by “not feeling right” or mild depression.
Sometimes this is just a reaction to the raised inflammation levels in your body, but occasionally it could indicate an underlying problem associated with RA.
If you have a persistent low-grade fever, accompanied by some of the other early symptoms of RA, this might indicate the beginnings of the disease. It’s usually not high or spiking fevers, but you may feel a bit warm. Unexplained fever, especially if it persists, is a reason to seek medical attention.
Poor Appetite and Weight Loss
Having uncontrolled inflammation can suppress your appetite. Weight loss is usually not very drastic, but patients may notice that they don’t have quite the appetite for food and thus start losing weight. There’s another reason that early RA might result in losing some weight. Because the inflammation in your body increases your metabolic rate, you burn calories more easily.
Dry Eyes and Mouth
Problems with the eyes are a common side effect of RA, and the symptoms may show before the classic arthritis symptoms kick in. RA can cause the surface of the eye to become inflamed (episcleritis). Usually, it’s just a mild redness and irritation at first.
Another eye symptom of RA can be a reduced tear fluid—called Sjögren’s Syndrome. People will notice that have a gritty sensation in the eye, or feel like there’s some dust stuck in it. They’re not producing as much tear fluid.
Many people with RA experience morning stiffness. When they wake up in the morning they feel like they can’t move and naturally think this is part of growing old. Lack of movement causes the joint to seize up; stiffness can also happen after napping or sitting.