Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints due to inflammation. It typically affects the hands and feet, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Researchers don’t know the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is a progressive disease, which means that it tends to get worse over time.
Rheumatoid arthritis has four stages, and in this blog post, we will explore the four stages and what you can expect as the disease progresses. We will also discuss treatment options and ways to manage your symptoms.
The 4 Stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Stage 1 is RA in its earliest form and can be difficult to detect. The symptoms may come and go, and they can be quite mild at first. However, RA can progress and become much more severe if left untreated. The most common symptoms of early RA include:
- Joint pain and stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- Inflammation and swelling of the joints
- Redness and warmth around the affected joints
- Joint tenderness
As a person with rheumatoid arthritis enters Stage 2, inflammation begins to damage the cartilage, and they will experience mild to severe pain. Joints may be stiff and swollen and feel warm to the touch. They will also have some limited mobility and decreased range of motion due to cartilage damage. In some cases, Stage 2 rheumatoid arthritis can also cause fatigue and loss of appetite.
When a person reaches stage 3, their rheumatoid arthritis is considered to be severe. The deterioration of cartilage continues, and the bones start to rub together. Furthermore, the damage begins to spread to the bones and causes erosion.
In stage 3, there is additional pain and swelling. The bones and joints may become deformed. The person may have muscle weakness and will likely experience a continued decrease in mobility and range of motion.
Stage 4 is considered end-stage RA. There is no longer inflammation in the joints because they are entirely destroyed. However, a person with stage 4 rheumatoid arthritis may still have pain, swelling, and stiffness, and the bones may start to fuse together. Furthermore, there is muscle weakness and a decline in the ability to complete many daily tasks.
How Fast Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Progress?
There is no way to predict how fast RA will progress. The symptoms may increase gradually or not at all, meaning that RA is in remission.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, maintaining a healthy weight, light exercise, and avoiding alcohol may help you manage your condition. A heating pad can also help ease the discomfort of swollen joints.
The best way to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis is with early diagnosis and treatment. Our professional team at Advanced Rheumatology is leading the way with cutting-edge research and treatment of RA. They will work with you on a treatment plan and help you manage your condition. Contact us today at (281) 766-7886 and live a more comfortable life with rheumatoid arthritis.