What Are Unusual Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
When people think about rheumatoid arthritis (RA), they consider pain, swelling, and joint stiffness to be primary symptoms of the disease. While these symptoms are a debilitating and painful part of the condition for sufferers, there are many more unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis that we should be on the lookout for. It is important to remember that the effects of RA are not just limited to your joints; the inflammation associated with the disease can affect any tissue within your body. So, what are some unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
Unusual RA Symptoms:
- Extreme fatigue
- Chronic insomnia
- Eye pain and visual disturbances
- Emotional and cognitive difficulties
- Oral and esophageal motility issues
- Flu-like symptoms
- Impaired grip strength
- Feelings of numbness and/or pins and needles
- Cardiovascular complications
- Hair loss
- Tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Bruising and bleeding
- Rheumatoid nodules
- Food allergies
Keeping Track of Symptoms
RA symptoms change all the time. It is vital that you carefully track your symptoms so that you and your physician can easily spot any patterns. By keeping an accurate record of the symptoms you experience, you will be able to pinpoint any triggers that lead to a flare-up and you can avoid them in the future. Your physician may also use these records to adjust your medication to manage your symptoms better. Symptom tracking can empower RA patients, allowing you to take control of the management and treatment of your condition.
So, where do you begin? Firstly, you should discuss your tracking options with your physician and decide on the easiest way for you to record and share information with them. You may choose to use either of the following:
- Traditional pen and paper: Some patients prefer to opt for the traditional approach and keep a symptom diary in their favorite notebook. It is entirely your personal preference how you wish to monitor your symptoms.
- Digital apps: Perhaps the easiest and most convenient way to track your symptoms and share them with your doctor is using one of the many available digital apps.
The most important thing to remember is that you should regularly update your symptom diary to ensure you get the most accurate picture of your condition. You should include information about the symptoms that you have been experiencing, any medications you are taking, your diet, your activity levels, your emotional wellbeing, and any known triggers.
Getting an Accurate RA Diagnosis
To access prompt and effective treatment, you must obtain an accurate diagnosis of RA as soon as possible. As RA symptoms can overlap with those of other conditions, RA can be challenging to diagnose, and there is a real risk of misdiagnosis. The progression of RA can be slowed or even stopped if the correct treatment is initiated promptly. If you have consistent symptoms with RA, including some of the more unusual symptoms listed above, you should schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist to obtain a diagnosis.
More Common RA Symptoms
The primary symptoms of RA are pain, stiffness, and swelling in more than one joint. Many patients experience pain, stiffness, and immobility in the mornings, just after waking. RA is a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms usually appear slowly and get progressively worse over time. Symptoms also wax and wane over time, with patients suffering from symptom flare-ups and periods of remission.
RA Symptom Management
As your doctor works with you to find a suitable treatment plan, certain lifestyle changes can help ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life:
- Keep active: It is important to get plenty of exercise and follow a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy weight avoids any extra pressure being placed on your joints.
- Join a support group: Emotional wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing. By joining a support group, you will be able to meet and talk with other RA patients. You may also wish to speak to your doctor or a therapist.
- Rest and relaxation: Make sure that you get plenty of sleep and try to take time out of your day to relax and unwind. This could involve some deep breathing exercises or even a meditation session.
- Eat the right foods: Your diet should include plenty of natural anti-inflammatory foods, such as those containing omega-3, including olive oil and oily fish.
Managing RA With Herbs and Supplements
For some people, go-to treatments do not always work, and some people might even prefer natural remedies over medicinal ones. So, which herbs and supplements can help you manage pain and flare-ups? Let's take a look.
As soon as you hear this, you may think of brewing a cup of lemon ginger tea, and this is definitely how it can be consumed to help symptoms. You can also add it to your recipe when cooking.
Ginger has been used for years in Asian medicine, as it has anti-inflammatory properties. It can even remedy leukotrienes (inflammatory molecules) and prostaglandins (hormone-type substances that can lead to pain, inflammation and discomfort).
While thyme does not have anti-inflammatory that match ginger, it is an antioxidant, so you should consider cooking with it more. It also has anti-microbial elements. Anti-microbial means this herb can halt or slow the spread of unwanted microorganisms in the body, such as bacteria and fungi.
This comes from the turmeric root. While research shows that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin makes up about 3% of this spice. So, if you want to get the full and effective benefits without having to eat too much of it in your diet, taking a supplement is best.
4. Vitamin D
Did you know that vitamin D deficiency is closely linked to RA? In fact, the lower a person's vitamin D levels are, the worse their RA symptoms can be. There is not enough research to show if taking vitamin D actually helps RA flare-ups, but being deficient would not help your symptoms.
Alternative Management Techniques
1. Hot and Cold Therapy
A common alternative treatment for RA is heat and cold therapy. Keep in mind, you should discuss this with your doctor first, to see if this is the right direction for you. Also, everyone is different. You may find that cold treatments are more effective, while other people swear by heat.
Heat is mainly used to relieve pain, aches, stiffness and discomfort. The heat enlarges the blood vessels, which helps promote healthier blood flow and circulation. On the other hand, cold is used to restrict blood flow. This is better to combat inflammation and swelling.
Acupuncture is another effective RA remedy for some people, as it increases a person's level of endorphins. Endorphins are the happy hormone. Not only can they improve your mood, but they can promote relaxation, and they act as the body's natural painkiller. While people can find great results through this, it is recommended as an additional treatment, in line with medication.
Other Treatment Options
RA flare-ups can be extremely frustrating, particularly if they occur after prolonged periods of remission. Flare-ups can occur at any time but are often linked to triggers, including periods of illness or stress. By identifying the signs of a flare-up early, you will be able to respond quickly. A few days of rest and relaxation and some self-care may be all that is needed to reduce your symptoms.
Other strategies that may help include:
- Using mobility aids, such as a walking stick.
- Trying some light stretching exercises.
- A hot bath or shower.
- Taking regular pain medication.
- Taking it easy — be sure to discuss your flare-up with your family members and employer so that they are aware that you may need some additional support during this time.
- Rheumatoidarthritis.net (RA Symptoms: The Unusual and the Frustrating)
- Everyday Health (How Tracking Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Help You Manage)
- CDC [Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)]
- WebMD (How to Manage Your RA and Get Relief)
- Healthline (Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis)
- ARTHRITIS-health (15 Survival Tips for Managing an RA Flare-Up)
- Everyday Health (15 Herbs and Spices for Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptom Relief)
- ARTHRITIS-health (Top 4 Supplements to Treat Arthritis Pain)
- ARTHRITIS-health (Using Heat and Cold to Treat a Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-Up)
- HSS (Acupuncture: Can It Help My Rheumatoid Arthritis?)