Joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and grinding joints are all classic symptoms of arthritis. However, there are some lesser-known early signs that masquerade as something insignificant, but actually indicate the onset of arthritis. Would you know what to look for?
Firstly, it’s important to know the difference between the two main types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a concern for all ages. This autoimmune disease triggers inflammation that attacks joints, triggering tenderness, swelling, pain, and limited mobility. Osteoarthritis has similar symptoms to rheumatoid arthritis such as joint pain and stiffness, but it’s brought on by wear and tear. It’s a condition that generally develops later on in life and the symptoms are limited to the joints.
Below you’ll find the early symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
This is usually the first symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. It can start weeks or months before other symptoms appear, and it’s often accompanied by “not feeling right” or mild depression. It might feel like you have a virus or flu. Sometimes this is just a reaction to the raised inflammation in your body, but occasionally it could be an indicator of an underlying problem associated with RA, such as anemia.
Poor Appetite and Weight Loss
The weight loss is normally not drastic, but patients might notice that they don’t have quite the appetite for food and thus start to lose weight. There’s also another reason why early rheumatoid arthritis might result in some weight loss – the inflammation in your body increases your metabolic rate, meaning you burn calories more easily.
Dry Eyes and Mouth
Having problems with your eyes is quite a common side effect of rheumatoid arthritis, and the symptoms might appear before the classic arthritis symptoms kick in. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause the surface of the eye to become inflamed.
Another eye symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is reduced tear fluid. You’ll notice that you have a gritty sensation in your eye, or feel like there’s some dirt stuck in it. Your saliva production can decline, as well as other bodily fluids.
One of the most surprising early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is chest pain. Some rheumatoid arthritis patients get inflammation in the lining of the lungs, so it hurts when a deep breath is taken. However, this is not a very common early sign. More often than not, it comes on after other symptoms.
Many people with rheumatoid arthritis will experience morning stiffness. Some people don’t realize that stiffness in the morning is a sign of arthritis. They just blame it on the fact that they’re getting old.
Another rheumatoid arthritis symptom is stiffness in minor joints that isn’t caused by activity. This usually starts in the small joints, such as hands or the wrists, and then progresses to other joints. There may also be some mild joint inflammation.
Grating Sensation and Bone Spurs
The spongy cartilage in your joints helps to cushion your bones as you move about. As this cartilage wears down, the bones can begin to grate and grind against each other, causing pain. Worn cartilage can also encourage the growth of bone spurs, potentially deforming joints.
People will often report experiencing a cracking or popping sensation – a kind of cracking sound in their knees or cracking in their joints. This is also caused by worn down cartilage.
Swollen Joints and Stiffness
Joint swelling due to osteoarthritis is caused by excess synovial fluid, the lubricating fluid in your joints. This isn’t usually painful, but it can limit your range of movement.
Pain Triggered by Activity
People who have osteoarthritis usually find that their pain is worse with activity and improves with rest. This is the opposite to people with rheumatoid arthritis who find that their stiffness is worse in the morning.
Seeking Medical Help Early
Early detection enables you to seek expert treatment earlier. It may help to prevent joint damage in the case of OA, but catching rheumatoid arthritis early is vital. This is because the longer you leave an inflammation untreated, the more of an effect it will have on your entire system. There is evidence that untreated inflammation can lead to a risk of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, and strokes. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that people who have persistent symptoms aren’t ignoring things that could be signs of a larger systemic problem.