Even though you may be familiar with the term rheumatoid arthritis, you could be under the impression that this disease solely affects the elderly, as numerous prescription advertisements tend to specifically target this age group. The reality, though, is that this condition can affect adults of any age.
Therefore, to make sure that you catch the onset of this illness early and seek appropriate medical intervention, it is advisable to know a few red flags to be wary of. Although not all joint pain automatically points to this disease, check out the following guide to rheumatoid arthritis and what to expect when you visit a rheumatologist.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
Patients develop rheumatoid arthritis when their immune system starts to attack the joints in their body, specifically the synovial tissue. Your immune system is vital for your overall health, as it is your primary defense against bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that could severely compromise your health. Once the synovial tissue is inflamed, it starts to thicken, which not only makes your joints swell, but it can be painful, too.
Which symptoms should send you to a rheumatologist?
As stated above, a couple of the leading symptoms of undiagnosed rheumatoid arthritis are swelling and chronic pain. Nonetheless, all joint pain does not immediately mean you have this autoimmune disease. Instead, there are several other symptoms to be on the lookout for that would compel you to see a rheumatologist immediately. Joint stiffness, for example, is a symptom that can flare up on occasion, so it can be difficult to miss if you are not paying attention to aggravated swelling and joint pain. Progressive loss of joint function in your hands, for example, is another symptom that should urge you to visit a rheumatologist at your earliest convenience.
What can you anticipate when you visit a rheumatologist?
Vising a rheumatologist may seem daunting, but this can be because you may not know what to expect. The reality is that diagnosing this autoimmune disorder is not a painful experience. The first thing that the rheumatologist will do is take an exhaustive medical history, which includes asking you questions about your family history, the symptoms you are experiencing and the duration you have had them, medications you could be taking, and so on.
Once this is done, the rheumatologist will then carry out a physical assessment to determine the painful areas, the extent of swelling, potential loss of mobility, and the presence of rheumatoid nodules. Medical imaging is another diagnostic tool that the rheumatologist will employ. Scans such as MRIs, x-rays, and ultrasounds will be vital for establishing physical damage that would not be visible, such as decreased space between joints and erosion of the bones in the affected joints.
Contact a local clinic, such as Sarasota Arthritis Center, to learn more.