Someone experiencing pain from arthritis.

How to Tell if You Have Arthritis

Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are over 100 different forms of arthritis, with 150 million Americans diagnosed with some type of the disease. Arthritis is now one of the leading causes of pain and disability, and as the disease progresses, a person’s capacity to do everyday tasks can be severely hampered. Here you will learn about the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Types of Arthritis

The most common form, osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint disease that happens when the flexible tissue at the ends of bones wears down. It usually progresses as we get older.

Other common forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disorder that inflames many joints, including those in the hands and feet, psoriatic arthritis, a form of arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis, as well as other related autoimmune diseases such as lupus, Sjögren's syndrome, gout and bursitis.

Symptoms of Arthritis

While pain, stiffness and swelling experienced in the hips area are the symptoms most people associate with arthritis, there are other symptoms too. These symptoms can be:

  • Groin pain. Often described by patients as a dull, aching pain in the groin area, outer thigh, backside and even in the knee, these symptoms are often linked to arthritis in the hip.
  • Deformity. This happens when the cartilage is danged. Generally the only way to tell the extent of the deformity is through an x-ray.
  • Joint locks. When the cartilage in the hip breaks down, small pieces of it can become lodged in the joint, interrupting the joint’s ability to move smoothly the way a healthy joint does, thus causing the joint to “lock.”

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) usually begins slowly with minor symptoms that come and go, usually on both sides of the body. It progresses over a period of weeks or months. RA is hard to identify since symptoms vary from person to person and can change from day to day.

What to Look for as Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

One of the first symptoms of arthritis to be on the lookout for is fatigue. It usually occurs when you begin feeling like you have the flu. Some of the very early signs of RA are symptoms not typically associated with the disease. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis to be aware of include:

  • General weakness or feeling of malaise
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry, itchy, or inflamed eyes
  • Eye discharge
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Chest pain when you breathe (pleurisy)
  • Bruising easily
  • Anemia
  • Hard bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms and/or
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss

Make an appointment with your physician to get evaluated if you have got these types of symptoms.

What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

The third most common type of arthritis is psoriatic arthritis, which causes inflammation in the joints. This form of arthritis can occur when a person’s immune system is overactive. As its name implies, it primarily hits people with psoriasis, a skin disease also akin to the immune system.

Doctors often misdiagnose psoriatic arthritis as gout or RA since the symptoms are similar. The symptoms include painful, tender, stiff, or swollen joints, morning stiffness, tiredness and inflammation in other areas of the body, including the eyes.

If you are not getting better after having been diagnosed, keep asking questions or go to a physician who specializes in arthritis.

Arthritis can be triggered by certain foods that you should avoid if you have the disease. Here are some foods to avoid.

Processed and Fried Foods

Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine scrutinized the effect diet has on disease prevention. Their results showed that reducing fried foods can help reduce inflammation.

Sugars and Refined Carbs

High amounts of sugar and food items such as processed white flour, causes an advanced glycation end product (AGE), which is a toxin, to be increased in the body causing inflammation. As painful as it is for me to say, the cure is to cut out candies, processed foods, white flour baked goods and sodas to reduce your arthritic pain.

Dairy Products

Due to the type of proteins that most dairy products contain, they may also contribute to your pain. In some people, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, this protein may aggravate the tissue around the joints. Instead of eating the majority of your protein from meat and dairy, try other sources such as vegetables, beans, quinoa and tofu.

Salt and Preservatives

Most foods have an overabundance of salt as well as other preservatives to maintain a long shelf life. Eating too much salt can result in inflammation in the joints. Next time you reach for a frozen, microwavable meal, check the label for sodium content. There are plenty of delicious frozen entrees available that are low in sodium content.

Corn Oil

Omega-6 fatty acids, like those contained in most snacks and baked goods, trigger inflammation. On the other hand, Omega-3, found in fish oil has been shown to relieve painful inflammation, so go for the olive oil, nuts, flaxseed and pumpkin seeds instead.

Ways to Cope With the Pain

Here are suggested methods know reduce arthritic pain:

  • Exercising during the evening will help you feel less stiff in the morning.
  • If you are sitting still for any length of time, they suggest you change positions frequently, move your neck from side to side, bend, stretch your legs and move your hands and fingers.
  • Stand and take a short walk every 20 minutes to 30 minutes or so.

All of the above are designed to try and keep your joints as flexible as possible, so they don’t lock up on you.

Additionally, Mayo suggests avoiding the following activities that are repetitive and high impact such as running, jumping, tennis and high-impact aerobics. Instead, participate in activities that build the muscles around your joints but do not damage the joints themselves. A physical or occupational therapist can help you develop an exercise program that is right for you, one that will emphasize stretching, range of motion and slowly progressive strength training. Alternatively, you can find multiple online sources that will show you the proper exercises to do.

Lastly, I have found that when I am suffering with joint pain, low impact exercises such as walking, biking or swimming not only helps me physically feel better, but also greatly improves my mood.