Over 1.3 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis. It is a long-term disease, often lasting several years and can be permanent. Unlike other similar arthritic conditions, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to anemia and heart complications.
• Joint pain, usually starting in the fingers and toes and spreading to other joints as the disease progresses.
• Stiffness, particularly in the morning.
• Swelling of the joints and redness.
• Anemia – this is a lack of oxygen in the blood caused by lack of red blood cells. The majority of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers also have anemia.
• Loss of appetite.
• Feeling tired and unwell.
• Inflammation of the lining of your heart.
• Inflammation of the tear ducts and/or salivary glands.
Not all people will get all symptoms, you may just get one or two, and the condition varies from mild to severe.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune condition whereby the body’s own immune system attacks the tissues and joints.
It is difficult to diagnose due to the fact that there are several other conditions with similar symptoms and there is no specific test for rheumatoid arthritis. A doctor can make a diagnosis based on symptoms and on doing a physical examination. He could also do some blood tests which are indicator of rheumatoid arthritis but not a definite diagnosis. Some of these tests include:
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate Test--This tests how fast your red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube of liquid. If they fall very fast, this is an indicator of arthritis.
C-reactive Protein Test--C-reactive protein is inflammation in the blood stream. If there is more CRP in your blood than normal, it means there is an inflammatory process going on in the body and is an indicator of arthritis.
Antibody Test--This test checks for the presence of an antibody called rheumatoid factor, which most sufferers have. Since healthy people can also have this antibody it is not an accurate test.