No two people's journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the same. You may have a friend or family member with symptoms completely different from your own. You may even be exhibiting a few unusual symptoms of RA.
RA is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation to the lining of joints, which leads to joint damage and debilitating pain. In some cases, this inflammation can also cause bone erosion and joint deformity as well as damage to the lungs, heart, skin, eyes, kidneys, and blood vessels.
In most cases, rheumatoid arthritis first affects small joints such as those in the hands and feet. As it progresses, it can spread to the joints of the wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, and hips. RA affects more than 1.3 million people in the US, making it the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. Of this total, about 75% of people living with RA are women.
There are many symptoms associated with RA. They often present intermittently and can be triggered by diet and lifestyle choices. However, patients with rheumatoid arthritis can experience many other symptoms outside of the common symptoms of RA.
A few unusual symptoms that could be related to your rheumatoid arthritis autoimmune disease:
Snoring Can be an Unusual Symptom of RA
Research suggests there is a connection between rheumatoid arthritis and sleep apnea. Symptoms include loud snoring and interruptions in breathing and/or gasping for breath while sleeping.
This can also cause headaches and fatigue because of the lower levels of oxygen the body receives while sleeping.
Sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Treatment typically includes using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or another treatment device to increase oxygen intake while sleeping.
Numbness and Tingling
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause the connective tissue in the hands and feet to become inflamed. This joint inflammation can impinge the nerves, which can cause the hands and feet to feel numb or tingle. You may even be diagnosed with additional conditions as a result, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
While typically not painful, it’s always a good idea to report sensations of numbness to your physician and make an effort to keep these symptoms from becoming worse. Understanding all symptoms can help your physician develop the appropriate advice, diagnosis, or treatment for your unique experience with RA.
Sharp Chest Pain
RA can cause chest pain that mimics that of a heart attack though not actually related to your cardiovascular system or heart. Joints that connect your ribs to your breast bone, the linings around your heart or lungs can get inflamed and cause sharp pains, shortness of breath, and sensations that resemble a heart attack.
Sometimes called costochondritis, this can be very painful and quite scary to experience. Treatment is typically an over-the-counter pain reliever. Often the pain will go away on its own but may continue for a few weeks or even longer.
RA not only has the potential for inflammation throughout the body, but it can also lower your blood platelet count. Platelets cause the blood to clot. Due to RA, your body uses or destroys platelets faster than it can replace them which can lead to easy bruising.
Some RA medications can also increase the likelihood of bruising. It’s possible to discuss this symptom with your doctor or health coach. You might consider requesting a complete blood count to determine if you have low platelet levels due to the disease or medication and discussing treatment alternatives such as addressing nutrient deficiencies.
Managing Your RA Symptoms
Just because you are experiencing things that seem unusual and not related to your RA, doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Paying attention to your body can make all the difference in managing a chronic disease and its effect on your immune system. There are things you can implement into your daily routine to help manage the typical, and unusual symptoms of RA.
Even if it’s a walk around your neighborhood, spending time in the garden, gentle stretching, or yoga. Find what works for you and make an intentional decision to move your body. Exercise at your own level, as even gentle and regular movement improves the pain of RA.
Apply Heat or Cold
Heat can help ease your pain and relax tense, painful muscles. Cold may dull the sensation of pain, has a numbing effect, and can reduce swelling. Choose heat or cold based on what feels good to you; or, choose to alternate them, spending 20 minutes on heat and 10 minutes on cold.
Find ways to manage pain by reducing stress in your life. Guided meditations, breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation can be used to control pain. The effect relaxation has on pain control is immense, and focusing on this can help relieve some pain due to RA.
Connect with Others
Whether through support groups in your area or online, connecting with others with RA can be helpful. Talking to a friend or family member you feel comfortable with when you feel overwhelmed or are in need of help is especially encouraged.
Other Common RA Symptoms to Look Out For
Though rheumatoid arthritis affects each person differently, unpredictability is a common issue. People can experience flare-ups that cause acute pain, soreness, and swelling, followed by periods of remission when symptoms are less noticeable. But since it can be challenging to predict when flare-ups will occur, RA makes it difficult to carry out daily activities and meet work and social obligations.
The most common RA symptoms include:
- Painful, swollen joints
- Stiffness in multiple affected joints at once
- Burning sensation in joints
- Similar symptoms on both sides of the body such as pain in both knees or both wrists at once
- Lumps called rheumatoid nodules, which grow beneath the skin near the joints
No matter how RA presents in your body, we know that it can be overwhelming and debilitating. Mymee has gathered certified health coaches to help build you a personalized plan that pinpoints what's behind your signs and symptoms, whatever they may be.
You are not alone. Mymee health coaches have gone through and overcome their own life-threatening autoimmune disease, like you. Get started on the road back to feeling like yourself again with Mymee Core. In just 16 weeks, you will get a roadmap to your disease and better understand how your symptoms are triggered by environmental and lifestyle decisions.