Rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects the joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and feet. Joints can become deformed and eventually lose their mobility. Because these joint problems can’t be reversed, it’s important to recognize symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis so it can be aggressively treated early in the course of the disease to prevent or reduce joint damage.
RA is a systemic disease, meaning the inflammation it causes can damage parts of the body other than joints -— including the heart, lungs, and eyes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out.
Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:
- Pain, aching, or stiffness in more than one joint
- Tenderness and swelling in more than one joint
- Symptoms typically the same on both sides of the body — for example, in both feet or both hands
- Weight loss
- Fatigue and unexplained weakness
- Low-grade fever
Symptoms of lupus
An estimated 240,000 Americans are diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), according to the National Institutes of Health. Like RA, it affects far more women than men. In fact, women are about nine times more likely to develop lupus than men, and African American women have the highest risk for the condition. SLE usually begins between the ages of 15 and 44, but symptoms of lupus can be so variable it takes months or even years to be diagnosed.
SLE is often difficult to diagnose because the signs of lupus are not specific, and findings on symptom assessments, lab tests, physical exams, and imaging tests can be mistaken for other conditions. Because diagnosing lupus can be complex and challenging, the CDC advises anyone with symptoms of lupus to see a doctor specializing in rheumatology for a definitive diagnosis.
Lupus can affect many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain. It can cause widespread inflammation, similar to RA, and result in tissue damage to affected organs. Lupus is a serious disease and can be life-threatening. Although there’s no cure, early diagnosis and effective treatments and lifestyle changes, including diet, may help reduce the damaging effects of SLE.
People with lupus may experience signs and symptoms that vary with the individual, including:
- Sun-sensitive skin rashes
- Patchy hair loss
- Raynaud syndrome (when your hands are feet are unusually sensitive to cold weather)
- Oral ulcers
- Pain and swelling in joints
- Immunological abnormalities
- Lung, heart and/or kidney problems
March 27, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA