Most of us have heard of arthritis but what is rheumatoid arthritis and what are the symptoms you should look out for?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that sees people suffer long-term with pain, swelling and stiffness in their joints.

Symptoms can sometimes get worse when people have flare-ups or flares which can happen unannounced.

There is treatment available for people who have rheumatoid arthritis, the NHS website explains.

Treatment can decrease the number of flares someone might have and it can also prevent or minimise the long-term damage that rheumatoid arthritis can cause in the joints.

What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can vary from one person to another.

Some people start to develop symptoms over the course of a few weeks whereas others can get them in a number of days.

The symptoms can be there one minute and gone the next and they can change as time goes on.

As well as pain, stiffness and swelling, other symptoms include:

  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • High temperature
  • Sweating
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss

Inflammation that is part of rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes also cause dry eyes and chest pain.

If you think you have symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, you should see a GP.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent it from getting worse and reduces the risk of damage to the joints.

You can find out more about rheumatoid arthritis via the NHS website.

Basingstoke Gazette: There are various symptoms to look out for when it comes to identifying rheumatoid arthritisThere are various symptoms to look out for when it comes to identifying rheumatoid arthritis (Image: Getty Images)

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

The NHS website explains that rheumatoid arthritis “is an autoimmune condition, which means it's caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue.”

What causes this remains unknown.

The website adds: “Your immune system normally makes antibodies that attack bacteria and viruses, helping to fight infection.

“If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mistakenly sends antibodies to the lining of your joints, where they attack the tissue surrounding the joint.”

This means the thin layer of cells (synovium) that cover your joints become sore and inflamed and release chemicals which damage bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments that are nearby.

If the condition isn’t treated the chemicals can gradually cause “the joint to lose its shape and alignment.”

It can completely destroy the joint eventually.

Basingstoke Gazette: Some factors increase a person's risk of getting rheumatoid arthritisSome factors increase a person's risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis (Image: Getty Images)

What factors can increase your risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis?

Factors that can increase your risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis include your genes and hormones.

Your risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis also increases if you are a smoker.

What treatment is available for rheumatoid arthritis?

The NHS website says: “Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis can help reduce inflammation in the joints, relieve pain, prevent or slow down joint damage, reduce disability and enable you to be as active as possible.

“Although there's no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, early treatment and support (including medicine, lifestyle changes, supportive treatments and surgery) can reduce the risk of joint damage and limit the impact of the condition.

“Your treatment will usually involve care from your GP and several different specialists.”

Medicines can help stop rheumatoid arthritis from worsening and reduce someone’s risk of problems later on.

The website adds: “These are often divided into main 2 types: disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biological treatments.”