10 Arthritis Symptoms Not to Ignore

Find out the ten symptoms and side effects you should not ignore when dealing with arthritis.

1. 10 Symptoms Not to Ignore if You Have Arthritis
Living day to day with arthritis, you’ve probably figured out when to wait out pain and when to call the doctor about it. But what if you experience something completely different – shortness of breath, a slightest bump leaves a big bruise or losing weight without trying? What may seem like a minor medical problem could be a red flag. Here are 10 symptoms you should never ignore – and when to call your doctor about them.
2. Easy Bruising or Bleeding
If bumping into a table corner leaves a big bruise, your arthritis or the medications you take for it may be to blame. Having RA and lupus can lead to a low platelet count, which can cause bruising and bleeding from the gums. Arthritis medications, like methotrexate, biologics, corticosteroids, even aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can affect blood flow in your body. If you notice that you bruise or bleed easily, let your rheumatologist know as soon as possible.
3. Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath, particularly if it occurs with a dry cough or little or no exertion, could signal a potentially serious problem in your lungs, such as blood clots or scarring. If you are taking methotrexate, another possible cause may be methotrexate pneumonitis, which causes shortness of breath accompanied by a dry cough and fever. Don't confuse this symptom with exercise exertion. Call your doctor for an evaluation if you often feel shortness of breath.
4. Painful Urination
This symptom, particularly when accompanied by a fever, is a sign of infection. An infection is a common side effect of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics because they suppress the immune system. Sometimes infections can turn quickly and become serious. Contact your rheumatologist immediately if you have this and other symptoms of a urinary-tract or bladder infection.
5. Change in the Appearance of a Mole
Amole that changes in size or color or a skin lesion that doesn't heal could be a sign of skin cancer. Although anyone can get skin cancer – particularly fair-skinned people who have spent a lot of time in the sun – you may be at greater risk if you take TNF inhibitors, a class of biologic drug that includes adalimumab (Humira) and etanercept (Enbrel). It’s important to report any suspicious skin lesion to a dermatologist as soon as possible.
6. Unexplained Weight Change
Weight gain from medications like corticosteroids and some antidepressants is common, but rapid or unexplained weight gain may indicate a problem such as kidney disease or congestive heart failure. Both are more common with some forms of arthritis. Likewise, unexplained weight loss can be a sign of increased inflammatory disease activity, thyroid disease, NSAID-related stomach ulcers, or celiac or Crohn’s disease. Talk to your doctor about sudden weight change.
7. Chest Pain
Some types of chest pain may be related to your arthritis or medications. Bisphosphonates for osteoporosis can cause heartburn or irritation of the esophagus. People with inflammatory arthritis face a higher risk of heart attack. NSAIDs can increase this risk. If you feel heaviness or tightness of the chest accompanied by pain that runs down the back, arm, jaw or throat, extreme weakness, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeats – then you might be having a heart attack. Call 911 immediately.
8. Blood in Stool
Blood in stool could be a sign of diverticulitis (inflammation in the colon), colorectal cancer, Crohn’s disease or gastrointestinal bleeding. If the bleeding is due to NSAID use, it usually produces black, tar-colored stools. Tarry stools or [obvious] blood always need to be evaluated ASAP. On the other hand, a bit of blood on the toilet paper could be due to a hemorrhoid and isn't necessarily cause for concern if it goes away in a few days.
9. Achilles Pain
Pain and swelling above your heel can be the result of increased physical activity, an injury or wearing shoes without proper heel support. But if you also have low back pain or swollen joints, it could be a sign of ankylosing spondylitis or psoriatic arthritis. It’s important to alert your doctor to get a proper diagnosis in case you have one of these conditions.
10. Persistent Sadness or Hopelessness
Feelings of depression are common when arthritis causes constant pain and interferes with your ability to go about your daily life. However, in some cases depression can be a side effect of the disease process or of arthritis medications, particularly corticosteroids. It’s important to discuss depression with your doctor. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately.
11. Increase in Fatigue
More fatigue than usual could mean increased inflammatory disease activity, fibromyalgia, depression or anemia. Fatigue can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis and sometimes by medications used to treat various forms of arthritis. A day of increased fatigue might be your body’s way of telling you to slow down, but you should let your rheumatologist know if it is frequent, severe or goes on for more than a week.

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