10 Unusual symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

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There’s not an easy way to handle the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis, and sometimes looking for more information about the disease is not a good idea when you’re not properly guided.

uncommon symptoms Rheumatoid arthritis

 

 

Coming across alarming signs and symptoms is a common problem if we’re reading online information, and in most cases, we will never have these severe complications.

 

 

 

We will cover all of the 10 most Unusual Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis below in detail:

  1. High Fever
  2. Numbness
  3. Skin Rash
  4. Dry Eyes
  5. Visual problems
  6. Chest Pains
  7. Short Breath
  8. Anemia
  9. Easily Bruised
  10. Chronic Neck Pain

 

Since there are so many signs and symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis, it is essential to know which ones are more common. Conversely, there are unusual symptoms that will not appear in most patients, and when they do, they are either alarming signs or symptoms associated with particular types of rheumatoid arthritis. We are advancing our knowledge with research funding in the UK. Donations are welcome.

In this article, we will cover 10 unusual symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and discuss life-threatening complications and rare forms of rheumatoid arthritis associated with each one of them.

High fever

A mild fever might be a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis because it is an inflammatory disease. In some cases, inflammation is severe enough to cause a subtle rise in temperature, especially during flare-ups. But high fever is not common in rheumatoid arthritis, and when it appears, it is usually caused by overlapped infections and not rheumatoid arthritis itself.

 

 

An infection could lead to a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up, and cases of high fever should be looked after, especially when accompanied by altered consciousness and other concerning symptoms.

 

 

 

 

Numbness or tingling sensation

In some cases, the inflammation in the articulations becomes quite severe and starts irritating the nerves that run along the joint. That’s why some cases of rheumatoid arthritis trigger a carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar nerve entrapment.

 

 

Skin rash

Most people with rheumatoid arthritis develop a butterfly-like rash, but there are other types of uncommon skin rashes. For instance, palmar erythema doesn’t itch and affects the palms of both hands. In some cases, skin rash is associated with inflammation of the blood vessels, which is a medical problem called vasculitis, and it can be quite severe.

 

 

Visual disturbances

The inflammatory condition in rheumatoid arthritis can also affect various linings of the eyeball, especially the sclera (the white portion of the eye) and the uvea (which is the vascular layer of the eye). In rare cases, even small blood vessels in the retinal will be affected, leading to gradual vision loss.

 

 

Dry eyes

It is known as keratitis sicca or dry eye syndrome, and it happens in patients with rheumatoid arthritis when there are not enough tears to lubricate and protect the eyes from foreign particles.

dry eyes arthritis

 

In cases of dry eyes, patients usually have a sensation of foreign material in their eyes, a blurred vision, and a higher susceptibility to scarring and infections.

This eye condition can be a clue for your G.P to diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Chest pain

Chest pain in rheumatoid arthritis should be carefully examined because these patients have a higher risk of suffering from myocardial infarction and other cardiovascular problems. It may also be caused by an inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the heart, called pericardium, and it is also important to rule out any respiratory infection that may be causing chest pain, usually associated with cough.

 

Shortness of breath

A persistent cough and shortness of breath in rheumatoid arthritis is not a common symptom and should be evaluated by a professional. One of the consequences of a widespread inflammation is that the lungs undergo a severe thickening ultimately affecting the normal function of exchanging gasses. This is called pulmonary fibrosis, and it is a severe complication of rheumatoid arthritis that is not common but should be carefully assessed.

 

Anemia

It refers to low hemoglobin levels, and it is quite common in patients with or without rheumatoid arthritis. So, it is not necessarily triggered by the inflammatory condition. When anemia is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, it is very similar to iron-deficiency anemia, and often difficult to differentiate. This is because inflammatory conditions may start affecting the way iron is stored and used in the body, making it unavailable for hemoglobin production.

 

Easy bruising

In some cases, rheumatoid arthritis will also lower your platelet count, and these small cells are essential to promote faster healing and trigger blood clotting when it’s necessary.

bruising arthritis

 

 

In flare-ups and special conditions during rheumatoid arthritis, your body starts using platelets too much or destroying them faster than the rate of platelet production. In these cases, patients experience easy bruising and continuous bleeding.

 

 

 

 

 

Chronic neck pain

In cases of long-standing rheumatoid arthritis, a condition doctors should consider in cases of chronic neck pain is cervical myelopathy. When being referred to a consultant your G.P should give you the option of a Chiropractor or Osteopath for neck pain. In these cases, rheumatoid arthritis leads to degenerative problems in the cervical spine, which in turn affects the spinal cord. There’s excessive pressure to this part of the nervous system, leading to chronic neck pain and mobility problems in your upper extremities. This condition should be examined promptly to prevent any permanent damage to the spinal cord.

Watch Jeans story about how odd symptoms can be a wake-up call to potentially have Rheumatoid Arthritis…

with thanks www.nras.org.uk

 

 

As you can see in the following table, the symptoms described above are not common in rheumatoid arthritis unless they are associated with comorbidities or related health conditions.

Symptom Associated condition Complication
High fever Infections or systemic inflammatory reaction Cases of high fever may be associated to flare-ups. Be careful with altered consciousness because it may also lead to shock.
Numbness/tingling Carpal tunnel syndrome An inflammatory condition in the joint of the elbow or wrist leads to nerve entrapment syndromes as in carpal tunnel syndrome.
Skin rash Vasculitis May or may not be a concerning symptom. Thus, it is important to be examined by a doctor
Visual disturbances Scleritis, uveitis May also lead to visual loss when there are alterations to the nervous layer (retina).
Dry eyes Keratitis sicca Increases the risk of infections and bruising in the eyes.
Chest pain Myocardial infarction, pericarditis Rheumatoid arthritis patients are at a higher risk than the normal population to suffer myocardial infarction.
Shortness of breath Infections, pulmonary fibrosis Be careful with chronic cough associated with shortness of breath, especially during or after flare-ups.
Anemia Anemia of inflammation or chronic disease May increase symptoms such as muscle weakness, drowsiness, and fatigue.
Easy bruising Low platelet count Should be carefully assessed to rule out viral infections and other causes of bleeding and easy bruising.
Chronic neck pain Cervical myelopathy May lead to permanent spinal damage when not promptly examined and treated by a doctor.

 

References:

Collins, C. E., La, D. T., Yang, H. T., Massin, F., Gibot, S., Faure, G., & Stohl, W. (2009). Elevated synovial expression of triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 1 in patients with septic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the rheumatic diseases68(11), 1768-1774.

Lee, K. H., Lee, C. H., Lee, B. G., Park, J. S., & Choi, W. S. (2015). The incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. International journal of rheumatic diseases18(1), 52-57.

Makol, A., Matteson, E. L., & Warrington, K. J. (2015). Rheumatoid vasculitis: an update. Current opinion in rheumatology27(1), 63-70.

Chua-Aguilera, C. J., Möller, B., & Yawalkar, N. (2017). Skin manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and spondyloarthritides. Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology53(3), 371-393.

Vignesh, A. P. P., & Srinivasan, R. (2015). Ocular manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis and their correlation with anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies. Clinical ophthalmology (Auckland, NZ)9, 393.

Lamba, N., Lee, S., Chaudhry, H., & Foster, C. S. (2016). A review of the ocular manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis. Cogent Medicine3(1), 1243771.

Meissner, Y., Zink, A., Kekow, J., Rockwitz, K., Liebhaber, A., Zinke, S., … & Strangfeld, A. (2016). Impact of disease activity and treatment of comorbidities on the risk of myocardial infarction in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis research & therapy18(1), 183.

Paulin, F., Doyle, T. J., Fletcher, E. A., Ascherman, D. P., & Rosas, I. O. (2015). Rheumatoid arthritis-associated interstitial lung disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: shared mechanistic and phenotypic traits suggest overlapping disease mechanisms. Revista de Investigación Clínica67(5), 280-286.

Fraenkel, P. G. (2017). Anemia of inflammation: a review. Medical Clinics101(2), 285-296.

Zhang, T., & Pope, J. (2015). Cervical spine involvement in rheumatoid arthritis over time: results from a meta-analysis. Arthritis research & therapy17(1), 148.

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