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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain and swelling in the joints. This causes your joints to feel stiff and sore (especially in the morning). Rheumatoid arthritis usually starts slowly and affects only a few joints. It might start in a knee, a wrist, the hands, or even the feet. Over weeks to months, it can start to affect other joints. Sometimes RA seems to come on overnight – you can go to bed feeling well, but in the morning you feel like you just can’t get out of bed. This is rare.
Other times, RA seems to jump around from joint to joint. One day a wrist will be stiff and sore. Then the next day the wrist feels fine but a knee is sore. Then the next day the knee and wrist feel fine but a shoulder is sore. When this happens, people might start to feel like they’re going crazy.
One thing to remember about RA and other types of inflammatory arthritis is that chronic (long-term) inflammation is not good for the body. We now know that having RA or other types of inflammatory arthritis is linked to heart disease. That means people with RA have a higher chance of developing heart disease than people without RA. So if you have RA, make sure you do everything you can to reduce your risk of heart disease. The first thing you should do is to make sure your arthritis is treated. Other things include keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control. And if you are a smoker, quitting can be one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
Work and Rheumatoid Arthritis
The pain and stiffness caused by RA can sometimes limit people’s normal activities, including work. But there are things you can do to lessen the impact of RA on your work and daily routine. If you find out you have RA when you’re still young, consider choosing a career that won’t be physically demanding on your joints.
If you have a job where you sit for much of the day, adjusting features of your workplace can help make working with RA easier. For example, adjusting the position of chairs and desks for proper posture can help. You can also make adjustments to the seat of your vehicle to make driving more comfortable and reduce the stress on your spine.
Travel and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Traveling is still possible when you have RA. It is best to be organized prior to your trip to ensure a smooth, comfortable, and enjoyable time. See our travel check list.
Sex and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Although RA does not particularly cause a loss of sex drive, it can cause pain, fatigue and emotional hardships. These hardships can create barriers to sexual needs, ability and satisfaction. Take comfort knowing that sex and intimacy can be maintained in people with RA … it can even draw partners closer together, especially through improved communication between mates.
For more information on intimacy and arthritis, a great book is Rheumatoid Arthritis: Plan to Win by Cheryl Koehn, Taysha Palmer and John Esdaile.
Pregnancy and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis does not affect your ability to become pregnant. However, when it is severe it can affect the menstrual cycle and make intimacy with a partner difficult. Some medications used to treat RA should not be taken when trying to get pregnant. If you have RA and want to get pregnant it is very important to discuss this first with your doctor. Your doctor can help come up with a safe plan to control your RA while you try to get pregnant and during your pregnancy.
Read more – Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)