It is estimated that rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory rheumatic disease that can lead to pain, loss of function, and even disability if left untreated. The symptoms of this condition often affect the hands first before moving on to other joints in the body. If you don't see a rheumatologist urgently, rheumatoid arthritis can lead to severe joint deformities and immobility.

When Do You See a Rheumatologist?

Although rheumatoid arthritis is disabling, rheumatologists can treat this condition successfully with medications that reduce or suppress the inflammatory process of rheumatoid arthritis.

There are often no noticeable symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in its early stages. As the disease progresses, some people develop mild to moderate pain in the joints. When the joints are actively inflamed, they are swollen, warm to the touch, and stiff.

You should urgently schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist if you notice any of the following symptoms:

Morning Stiffness

If you wake up stiff and sore for more than an hour after waking, it's likely that you have arthritis. The stiffness is caused by inflamed tissue within your joints. For some, though, morning stiffness can last several hours. If you have arthritis, the morning stiffness is made worse by exercise, cold, or even the weather.

You're Tired All the Time

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your energy levels are low because the disease itself, which attacks your immune system's ability to regulate inflammation, is actually robbing you of your strength.

You Have A Swollen Knuckle

Typically, rheumatoid arthritis attacks several major joints, including the hands, wrists, elbows, feet and ankles, knees, and hips. Swollen knuckles are nothing compared to the damage that can be done if the disease gets worse. Thus, you should see a rheumatologist if you experience recurrent swelling in any of these joints.

You're Really Cold All the Time

While it's still hot out, you might want to turn up the thermostat a little bit. When your body temperature drops because of poor circulation, which will happen if rheumatoid arthritis has attacked your lymphatic vessels, you're going to want to stay as warm as possible.

You Feel Like You Have a Flu

And that's because rheumatoid arthritis can cause a lot of the same symptoms as the flu, including fever, fatigue, and aches. But unlike the flu, these symptoms can last months, years, and even decades.

The Bottom Line

So, what are you waiting for? The best time for rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis is before significant joint damage has occurred because once serious structural changes have taken place, there are fewer treatment options available. Thus, it's advisable to see a rheumatologist as soon as you suspect you have rheumatoid arthritis.