Symptoms of RA

What Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Feel Like?

Tiffany Westrich Nov 29th, 2012 (updated Feb 13th, 2015)
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Ask someone with rheumatoid arthritis to tell you about their biggest frustration and chances are they'll mention the misconception that RA is like osteoarthritis (OA). Here are some explanations of what RA feels like.

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Dealing with an Injury
Dealing with an Injury

It causes pain similar to a sprained or broken body part, and comparable to the physical trauma felt after an accident. At times the inflammation and soreness is so intense a brace or other movement assistance equipment is necessary to perform even simple tasks.

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Having the flu
Having the flu

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, so the pain is brought on when the immune system goes haywire and begins attacking the bodies' own cells. This inflammation can cause frequent fevers, nausea, and obnoxious fatigue. Like the flu, loss of appetite and muscle weakness is common, but unlike the flu, it will come back monthly, weekly, or in some cases, daily.

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Feeling physically exhausted
Feeling physically exhausted

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic disease that can affect any part of the body, even organs. When the disease is active, or ‘flaring', a patient may experience bouts of complete exhaustion, similar to how the body reacts after intense, strenuous activity. They may also experience a sense of physical exertion and the feeling of being winded.

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Mental and emotional struggles
Mental and emotional struggles

The disease is unpredictable, flaring at any time of the day or night without warning.  With Rheumatoid Arthritis, every day becomes a constant manipulation of tasks.  Managing both the physical and emotional effects of RA can be taxing and frustrating, but if the patient finds a solid support system it can make a big difference in their ability to cope.

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Empathizing with people with RA
Empathizing with people with RA

Unless you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, you can never know exactly what a patient endures, but perhaps now you can empathize a little more by relating your experiences to the most common characteristics of the disease.