Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: The warning sign on your skin to watch out for

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common condition whereby the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. According to the NHS, the outer covering (synovium) of the joint is the first place affected. This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint’s shape – this may cause the bone and cartilage to break down, explains the health body.

RA mainly affects the joints so the main symptoms are joint pain, swelling and stiffness.

Rheumatoid patients can also develop skin disorders, however.

According to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics (UIHC), this happens because rheumatoid conditions like RA are autoimmune diseases.

UIHC notes that the same kind of immune system problems that cause joint inflammation, swelling, and pain can also affect your skin.

When this happens, RA patients may develop lesions or rashes on the skin, reflecting immunological dysfunctions.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), doctors often look for rashes to help them diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.

AS the Arthritis Foundation (AF) explains, when RA-related inflammation of the blood vessels (called vasculitis) affects the skin, a rash of small red dots is the result.

“In more severe cases, vasculitis can cause skin ulcers on the legs or under the nails,” says the AF.

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It adds: “Controlling the rash or ulcers requires controlling the underlying inflammation.”

So, how can I treat rheumatoid arthritis?

According to the NHS, treatments can help reduce inflammation in the joints, relieve pain, prevent or slow down joint damage, reduce disability and enable you to be as active as possible.

“If you’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you’ll usually be offered a combination of DMARD tablets as part of your initial treatment,” explains the health body.

These medicines ease the symptoms of the condition and slow down its progression.

There are a number of important lifestyle changes you must make to mitigate the symptoms too.

Research shows that exercise helps ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.

“Aquatic exercises are especially gentle on painful joints because water helps to support your weight, which reduces joint stress, and exercising in warm water helps to reduce stiffness,” explains AF.

What’s more, water provides a natural resistance so you can get an aerobic and strengthening workout, the health body notes.

It’s also important to ensure your overall diet is still healthy and balanced.

“A Mediterranean-style diet, which is based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats such as olive oil, is recommended,” says the NHS.

There’s also some evidence to suggest that taking fish oil supplements may help reduce joint pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

It is worth noting that some people with rheumatoid arthritis feel their symptoms get worse after they have eaten certain foods.

“If you think this may be the case for you, it may be useful to try avoiding problematic foods for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve,” advises the NHS.

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