Waking up with a paralyzing feeling of stiffness and pain can make it difficult to get out of bed – especially when it lasts for half an hour or more. Yet this is common for people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own joints and tissues.
People often see the signs of RA between the ages of 40 and 60, yet it does affect people in other age groups. The key to successful treatment is identifying the condition early.
What happens if you wait?
Rheumatoid arthritis often goes unchecked and untreated, which can cause a number of complications. Fibrous tissues may form around the joints, causing the bones to fuse together, which can lead to deformity and diminished mobility. RA can also affect major organs including the skin, heart, lungs and kidneys.
Here are some common symptoms to help you identify RA:
Joint pain and swelling in more than one area
Any pain or swelling that lasts for 6 months or longer is a symptom. It’s commonly felt in the finger joints and knuckles as well as the wrists, feet and knees.
Some describe the feeling as similar to recovering from the flu.
Shortness of breath and a persistent cough can be signs of interstitial lung disease, which is a frequent complication of RA that can result in scarring of the lungs.
While often mistaken as a heart attack, the joints around your chest can become inflamed in a condition known as costochondritis.
This can signal inflammation has progressed beyond the joints.
Loss of appetite and catabolism (when your metabolism breaks down more molecules than it should in functions like digestion) can take a toll on your body.
If you identify with any of these symptoms, consult your doctor to get tested and develop a plan for treatment. If a diagnosis is made, your doctor can prescribe medication that can be extremely effective at reducing RA before it progresses further.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.