Do you have pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness in your hands, wrists or feet that has lasted for six weeks or longer? In the morning, are your joints stiff for longer than 30 minutes? Is one or both of your knees tender, warm and swollen? You may have more than arthritis — you may have rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic and often very painful autoimmune disease.
Do you have stiffness, tenderness or swelling in one or more of your joints? Do you hear a grinding noise when a joint is being used? Have you lost range of motion in any of your joints? You may have osteoarthritis.
Are you really tired all the time? Do you have frequent headaches? Are your joints swollen and painful? It may not be the flu or a similar illness. You may have lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes systemic inflammation that affects multiple organs, especially the skin and joints. Lupus can also affect other organs in your body such as your kidneys, the tissue lining your lungs (pleura), your heart (pericardium) and your brain.
Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), including several patients whom I see regularly in my practice. Somewhat different from “regular” arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system, which normally attacks foreign agents like bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks the joints. This creates chronic inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints to thicken, resulting in noticeable swelling and sometimes excruciating pain in and around the joints.