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Identifying the Unusual Indications of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is known primarily for its affliction upon the joints, causing discomfort, inflammation, and swelling. However, it is a systemic disorder capable of producing wide-ranging symptoms that can affect the entire body. These systemic manifestations are referred to as extra-articular symptoms.


While the focus is often on the more common symptoms, this article highlights the less typical, even peculiar, symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive understanding of this complex condition.


Common Manifestations of Rheumatoid Arthritis


The primary signs associated with rheumatoid arthritis tend to revolve around the joints, contributing to the following prevalent symptoms:


  1. Pain in the joints
  2. Inflamed joints
  3. Rigidity in the joints
  4. Enlargement of the joints
  5. Exhaustion
  6. Elevated body temperature


These symptoms may occur concurrently, with varying degrees of severity, and in different combinations in different individuals. However, there are less common, atypical symptoms that might indicate the presence of rheumatoid arthritis.


1. Sleep Disruptions: More Than Just Fatigue


One surprising area where rheumatoid arthritis can have an impact is sleep quality. RA might affect the neck and jaw joints, predisposing individuals to sleep apnea.This condition results in snoring, interrupted sleep, and daytime fatigue due to the obstruction of airways during sleep.


Man suffering from sleep distortion


2. Skin Abnormalities Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis


Inflammation-induced skin changes are another unusual symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. This might manifest as rashes, hives, or unevenly pigmented skin patches.


About 25% of RA patients might develop rheumatoid nodules, small lumps that tend to form over bone-rich areas like elbows, heels, knees, forearms, and fingers.


2. Vasculitis: An Underappreciated Manifestation of RA


Rheumatoid vasculitis, although rare, is a severe manifestation of RA characterized by inflammation spreading to blood vessels. This condition may induce sensations of numbness, tingling, or pain in the limbs, in addition to skin rashes.


Moreover, it holds the potential to impact essential organs such as the brain, lungs, heart,  kidneys, and the gastrointestinal system.


3. Breathing Difficulties in Rheumatoid Arthritis


Inflammation brought about by rheumatoid arthritis is also known to cause respiratory complications by impacting the lung tissues. This could manifest as several conditions, including interstitial lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and pleuritis.


Individuals suffering from these conditions might experience symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, a persistently dry cough, and sensations of discomfort within the chest region.


Additionally, these respiratory issues could also lead to hypoxemia, a condition characterized by below-normal levels of oxygen in the blood, further exacerbating the overall health situation.


Woman having a hard time breathing


4. Sensory Symptoms: Numbness and Tingling


Inflammation stemming from rheumatoid arthritis has the potential to impact adjacent nerves, instigating compression or injury that may cause sensations of numbness and prickling, particularly in the hands, feet, and extremities.


Such sensory alterations are often an outcome of RA-related conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, Raynaud's phenomenon, and peripheral neuropathy.


It's crucial to note that these conditions could also lead to decreased grip strength, color changes in the affected extremities during cold weather (in the case of Raynaud's phenomenon), and potential motor function disturbances (common in peripheral neuropathy), broadening the symptom spectrum beyond numbness and tingling.


5. Dental Health and Rheumatoid Arthritis


Intriguingly, the bacterial agents inciting periodontal disease, also known as gingivitis, may play a substantial role in eliciting rheumatoid arthritis in predisposed individuals. Additionally, secondary Sjögren's syndrome, which can lead to xerostomia or dry mouth, frequently accompanies rheumatoid arthritis.


This phenomenon occurs when the inflammation from RA specifically targets the salivary glands, thus reducing saliva production and subsequently causing dryness.


This broad interconnection between oral health and rheumatoid arthritis showcases the systemic nature of this autoimmune disorder, necessitating comprehensive management strategies.


man suffering from a toothache


6. Body Composition Changes


Rheumatoid arthritis can change body composition due to the avoidance of movements that exacerbate joint pain, resulting in muscle wasting and weakness. This reduction in muscle mass may increase total body fat in individuals leading a sedentary lifestyle.




7. Ocular Inflammation: More Than Just a Side Effect

Eye irritation can also occur due to inflammatory changes associated with rheumatoid arthritis. This could lead to conditions such as dry eye syndrome, episcleritis (red eyes), scleritis (inflammation of the whites of the eyes), and keratitis (corneal inflammation). Symptoms may range from dry, itchy eyes to eye pain, redness, blurry vision, and light sensitivity.


woman itching her eye


8. Mental Health Implications of Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis might be associated with sleep disorders and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, making it harder to fall asleep at night. As the severity of RA intensifies over time, the likelihood of psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety also increases, often resulting in persistent sleep disruptions.


Furthermore, persistent inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases like RA can precipitate chronic neuroinflammation, a condition linked to neurodegenerative diseases including dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and select mental health conditions.


9. Chest Discomfort Unrelated to Cardiovascular Conditions


Inflammation due to RA can cause chest pain unrelated to heart or cardiovascular issues. This could be attributed to irritation of the costosternal joints — those linking your ribs to your breastbone. While chest pain can be alarming, it's critical to understand that not all chest discomfort is cardiac.


9. Cognitive Complications: A Lesser-known Impact of RA


Pharmaceutical interventions for RA, due to their inherent inflammatory properties, may precipitate cognitive challenges including psychosis, manifested as delusions and hallucinations. They can also induce cognitive impairments like diminished concentration abilities and memory loss.


Notably, these cognitive effects are not universal and can vary depending on the specific medication, the dose, and the individual's unique physiological response to treatment.


10. Digestive Issues and Rheumatoid Arthritis


A variety of gastrointestinal complications may accompany rheumatoid arthritis, encompassing disorders such as liver malfunction, hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver), splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen), liver cirrhosis, and pancreatitis. Each of these conditions presents distinct clinical challenges and requires specialized management strategies.


Moreover, an estimated 13% of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis may also encounter a pathology known as amyloidosis. This ailment is typified by an atypical deposition of proteins that can inflict harm on both the liver and the intestinal tract, provoking symptoms such as abdominal pain, impaired nutrient absorption, and persistent diarrhea.


The Process of Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis


Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis often involves an integrative approach that combines the evaluation of symptoms and laboratory investigations. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by a symmetric effect on joints, leading to pain, swelling, and inflammation that persist for more than six weeks.


Often, laboratory evaluations reveal elevated concentrations of inflammation-indicating biomarkers, such as rheumatoid factor, C-reactive protein, and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate.


Furthermore, radiographic assessments such as X-rays are routinely utilized to inspect potential bone deterioration and narrowing of joint spaces.


Practical Treatment Strategies for Rheumatoid Arthritis


Drug therapy remains the cornerstone of management for rheumatoid arthritis, with a primary goal of dampening the aberrant autoimmune reaction and the ensuing inflammation. This therapeutic regimen often comprises:


  • Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): These include medications such as methotrexate, which function to slow down the progression of the disease and are often prescribed in the early stages.
  • Biologic Agents: These are a class of DMARDs, exemplified by tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, which work by blocking the action of specific immune system components that contribute to inflammation.
  • Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors: These newer medications intervene in the signaling pathway of immune cells, thereby reducing inflammation.
  • Glucocorticoids: These steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often employed in the short-term alleviation of joint inflammation and swelling, typically for a period not exceeding three months during the initial therapeutic stage of rheumatoid arthritis.


It's worth noting that the overall approach to treatment is personalized, with careful monitoring to optimize the benefits and minimize potential side-effects.


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Suitable for both ingestion and topical use, Hemp Seed Oil serves as a natural approach to alleviating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. From providing anti-inflammatory benefits to boosting overall nutritional status, it has potential to add an extra layer of support in managing this chronic condition.


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The Bottom Line


Rheumatoid arthritis represents a chronic, systemic autoimmune condition that predominantly exhibits its impact on the joints in a bilaterally symmetric manner, resulting in enduring discomfort, inflammation, and swelling within the joint structures.


However, the systemic inflammation characteristic of RA can impact multiple other bodily systems, manifesting in unusual symptoms such as auditory issues, snoring, skin rashes, breathing difficulties, sensory symptoms, dental issues, alterations in body composition, ocular irritation, sleep disruption, mental health issues, cognitive complications, and digestive problems.


Managing these symptoms requires a multi-faceted approach, including medication regimes involving glucocorticoids, DMARDs, biologics, and JAK inhibitors. By suppressing the autoimmune response, these medications can help decrease systemic inflammation, thereby reducing joint discomfort and mitigating the impact of other symptoms.


While traditional medications play a vital role in addressing rheumatoid arthritis, exploring alternative approaches such as Hemp Seed Oil may offer additional benefits. Hemp Seed Oil, with its rich nutritional profile and potential anti-inflammatory properties, presents a natural option worth considering. However, it is important to consult with healthcare professionals and conduct thorough research before incorporating any new treatment into your routine.



More Like This


What is commonly misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis?

Conditions often misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis include osteoarthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and fibromyalgia. These conditions can share similar symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness, but they have distinct causes and treatment strategies.

What triggers rheumatoid arthritis symptoms?

Several factors can trigger rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, including stress, physical trauma, certain infections, hormonal changes, and exposure to environmental factors such as tobacco smoke. Moreover, certain foods might exacerbate symptoms in some individuals due to food sensitivities.

How do you know if you have advanced rheumatoid arthritis?

Advanced rheumatoid arthritis often presents with persistent and severe joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Other indicators can include increased fatigue, weight loss, fever, and signs of systemic inflammation affecting other organs such as the eyes, lungs, heart, and skin.

How do you stop rheumatoid arthritis from progressing?

Halting the progression of rheumatoid arthritis usually involves a combination of medication and lifestyle modifications. Medications can include Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs), biologics, and corticosteroids. Lifestyle changes may involve regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate rest, stress management, and avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

What should you not do if you have rheumatoid arthritis?

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you should avoid activities that exert excessive stress on the joints, such as heavy lifting or high-impact exercises. Furthermore, smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet, and inadequate rest can exacerbate the disease progression. Neglecting medication schedules or ignoring new or worsening symptoms is also discouraged, as timely medical intervention is critical to managing the disease effectively.