health

Five signs of rheumatoid arthritis you may not have been looking for.

Arthritis Australia
Thanks to our brand partner, Arthritis Australia

Are you feeling achy or fatigued? Over 400,000 Australians live with rheumatoid arthritis, most of whom are women. The first diagnosis usually occurs between the ages of 35 to 64, but the struggle doesn’t necessarily end with knowing what’s causing your aches, pains and other unpleasant symptoms. Even people who know they have rheumatoid arthritis rarely speak up when they aren’t coping. That needs to change.

If you recognise some of the symptoms below, you shouldn’t feel guilty about speaking up. Nobody needs to live in pain. Around 50 percent of people living with rheumatoid arthritis aren’t in remission and you’re not alone. Your health is important.

It’s ok to not be ok.

Here are the top five symptoms of a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up:

1. Fatigue.

Everyone gets tired sometimes, be it from a late night at the office, your three-year-old having night terrors or a cat who thinks 3am is the best time to run up and down the house making noise. However, if you’re constantly feeling fatigued and nothing in your life has changed it, it’s worth checking in with your doctor.

Fatigue is a symptom to look out for. Image: iStock.

2. Unexplained aches.

Are you suffering aches and pains for no obvious reason? You may have just put those creaky knees down to pavement pounding or those elbow twangs down to swimming the summer away. If you’re getting consistent aches in the same joints, such as your knuckles, thumbs or the joints in your big toes, it could be a sign of a rheumatoid arthritis flare up. You’ll usually notice this in your smaller joints, but it can affect knees and hips too. If you’re thinking, "oh, it's just my pinky, it'll go away," you could be right, but checking in with your doctor is the best way to be sure. In the long run, the more information that your doctor has about you, the easier it will be for them to treat you.

3. Flu like symptoms.

Are you feeling hot or clammy? Maybe you really are just coming down with a head cold, but if those flu like symptoms are occurring along with that pesky joint pain and fatigue, your rheumatoid arthritis could be flaring up. It’s best to get ahead of it and work with your doctor to manage it as soon as you can. Putting your health first is not something to feel guilty about.

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4. Stiffness.

Are you struggling to get out of bed in the morning? Are your knees stiff and in agonising pain when you try to move? This could be another sign that you’re suffering from a rheumatoid arthritis flare up. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re not coping to your doctor and loved ones. In fact, it’s a great idea to have a special plan in place for your bad days, so your family and friends can support you if you need it. You’d do it for them, so they’ll do it for you.

Are you struggling to get out of bed and find your joints stiff?  Image: iStock.

5. Tenderness and swelling.

Not bouncing back from your exercise routine the way you usually do? If you’re noticing swelling and tenderness in your joints without any good explanation, it might be time to speak to your doctor, who can help you adapt your rheumatoid arthritis management plan.

Remember, around 50 per cent of women do experience remission. Speaking up when you aren’t coping and receiving the support you need will give you a better chance of experiencing remission too.

But isn’t it an old person’s disease?

Many women are surprised to learn they have rheumatoid arthritis because they think it’s an “old person’s” problem. The fact is, it’s not.

Understanding what’s going on with your body means you can start to manage your condition with exercise, a healthy lifestyle or medication.

Here's more information from Arthritis Australia:

What are your experiences with rheumatoid arthritis?

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