When a patient develops signs of what they believe to be rheumatoid arthritis, it is important that they
carefully document their symptoms. One of the reasons this is so crucial is that many of these symptoms may
mimic those of other diseases and disorders. Not every person who has tender or swollen joints is suffering
from rheumatoid arthritis. However, this means that having specific information for your doctor can facilitate
diagnosis and when appropriate a referral to a rheumatologist doctor.
Understanding the symptoms
In most cases, the symptoms of arthritis are the same for nearly everyone. It is notable that more women suffer
from rheumatoid arthritis than men, but men are not spared from this debilitating disease. Some of the symptoms
that may require a rheumatology workup include:
Painful joints - one of the first signs of arthritis is pain and swelling in the joints. Unlike non-rheumatoid
arthritis however, RA typically is found in the smaller joints such as those in the fingers and toes.
Heated areas - many patients who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will discover that when the joints
affected are painful and swollen that they are also warm or even hot to the touch. This is generally a sign that the
joint is inflamed.
General malaise - some patients who are suffering with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms will feel as if they may
have the flu. These symptoms include weight loss, fever and feelings of exhaustion. This is because the disease
attacks the auto-immune system.
Other things your doctor needs to know
There are some other things that your doctor will need to know to help diagnose or eliminate rheumatoid arthritis as
a cause of your problems. Some of the questions that your doctor may ask include:
Family history - does anyone in the family suffer from arthritis. While it is not necessarily an indication
that you have the same problem, there is often a hereditary component.
Morning pain - many who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis find they are in a significant amount of pain the
morning. Often, this pain goes away after they have been up for a couple of hours, though some patients may suffer
for several hours.
Medications and OTC meds - your physician will also want to be informed of any prescription or over-the-counter
drugs that you may be taking. This can help eliminate side effects from these medications as the cause of the problems.
Other health issues - it is important to discuss all other health issues that you may be suffering. Your doctor
will determine after looking at your entire familial and personal health history if you need to be referred to a
rheumatologist for further assessment.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis is very challenging and requires medical intervention in many cases. While mild cases
may be controlled with aspirin or other over-the-counter pain relievers it is important to understand that that for
most patients, symptoms get worse as they age. Exercise, proper diet and proper medical treatment can help keep the
symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis from interfering with your enjoyment of life.