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What does rheumatoid arthritis feel like?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects people in different ways, but there are some common symptoms. In this article, learn what it feels like to have RA and how to cope.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the body and principally affects the joints. It can lead to many painful symptoms.

Doctors classify rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a systemic condition because it can affect the whole body. Without effective treatment, it can be progressive, meaning that it may get worse over time.

A person with RA will typically experience flare-ups and periods of remission. This article will describe how RA feels and where people with this condition can find support.

How does rheumatoid arthritis feel during a flare-up?

Flare-ups are temporary increases in the severity of a disease, during which a person’s symptoms are at their peak. A person may have days, weeks, or months with no RA symptoms before a flare-up.

Some people have specific known triggers for flare-ups, which makes them predictable. Common triggers include exercising too intensely or doing too much physical work around the house.

Cold weather, illness or infection, lack of sleep, and stress can also trigger flare-ups.

At other times, RA symptoms are unpredictable. They can come on without warning, even when a person is feeling well overall.

The symptoms of RA flare-ups may include:

  • difficulty performing daily activities
  • flu-like symptoms
  • pain and stiffness in the joints
  • pain all over the body, not limited to the joints
  • swelling around the joints and tendons
  • shivering
  • fatigue

People may feel as though their joints are “on fire” or have the sensation that they are under “attack from within the body.” Other people have described flare-ups as a physical and mental “shut-down.”

Sometimes, people describe the pain as being so intense that they feel as though they want to die, according to research in the journal Rheumatology. Anyone feeling this way should seek emergency medical attention.

Read on: What does rheumatoid arthritis feel like?

The health and medical information on our website is not intended to take the place of advice or treatment from health care professionals. It is also not intended to substitute for the users’ relationships with their own health care/pharmaceutical providers.

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