Symptoms of Arthritis

DepressedSeniorManSome of the initial symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, low-grade fever, loss of appetite or weight.  They apply to several conditions and may be missed by your doctor as applying to RA.  Stiffness that lasts more than an hour and gradually improves all day.  It may increase after prolonged periods of sitting.
  • Painful, red, warm or swollen joints
  • Nodules or hard lumps of tissue under the skin, often found near elbows.
What Happens in Rheumatoid Arthritis?

What happens in Rheumatoid Arthiritis? The immune system mistakenly attacks the joints and other tissues…frequently the hands, wrists or feet.  The person may experience inflammation, pain, swelling and stiffness.  RA can permanently damage joints so it is recommended that if RA is suspected, see a Rheumatologist within 3 months of the onset of symptoms.  The earlier you are seen, the less likely that you will require joint surgery or replacement.

Treatment Options

RA can be treated with nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) which treat pain on a short term basis or disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS) which suppress the immune system to reduce painful inflammation and protect joints.  A newer category of biologics is contributing to improved RA outcomes in people with severe disease.  Some people have actually gone into remission with these treatments.

The Connection Between Arthritis and Sleep

Lack of sleep can worsen the condition of arthritis.  Pain can also keep a patient from sleeping well.  Talk to their doctor about medications that can manage the pain all night.Here are 8 tips to improve sleep:

  1. Do not watch TV in the bedroom
  2. Minimize lights from computers, phones and other electronic devices (even a small amount of light can impact sleeping)
  3. Get up from sleep and go to bed at the same time every day.
  4. Get regular exercise
  5. Avoid alcohol and nicotine and do not drink caffeinated drinks in the evening
  6. If sleep is alluding you, practice breathing in to the count of 6 and then breathing out to the count of 6; do this for 3-5 minutes or the count of 25.  You will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and be able to sleep deeply.
  7. If a partner wakes you at night with snoring, use ear plugs and an eye mask to eliminate distractions.
  8. Consider a device to help with sounds. Some provide the sound of a waterfall, ocean, nature and other sounds that help to block out distractions.  These are especially helpful for people who work at night and have to sleep during the day.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Outcomes
There are a number of actions you can take to improve your condition.  First, if you are overweight, work with your doctor to lose pounds that put pressure on joints.  Second, do water exercises which are easier on joints but provide resistance.  Third, manage the pain so that you can keep moving and restore more easily by getting better sleep.