Tens of millions of people EVERY YEAR across the US and Canada are told by their doctors that they have rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Centers of Disease Control. That is a troubling statistic, but even doctors make mistakes sometimes.
A chronic progressive disease, rheumatoid arthritis causes painful inflammation in the joints. This inflammation, most commonly in the wrists, fingers, feet, and ankles, can lead to deformities and immobility. But did you know that you might have been misdiagnosed? You might not have rheumatoid arthritis because there are other conditions that share the same symptoms. These are some of the conditions.
There are many symptoms that psoriatic arthritis has in common with rheumatoid arthritis, but they aren’t the same. Pain, swelling and joint stiffness are all common symptoms, but one of the most common doesn’t happen if you have RA: psoriasis.
About 85% of people who have PA get psoriasis first. You’ll also get more asymmetric joint involvement and no nodules if you have PA.
If your joints get swollen, red and extremely tender, you probably don’t have RA — you’ve got gouty arthritis instead.
GA is caused by an excess of uric acid in your blood and tissues.
Inflammatory erosive osteoarthritis
Inflammatory erosive osteoarthritis, or IEO for short, looks a lot like rheumatoid arthritis at the beginning but then changes over time. While you may see inflammation, damage in the form of erosion occurs in the joint affected. You can see the erosion in an x-ray.
However, unlike RA, the inflammation eventually subsides with IEO.
Ankylosing spondylitis causes inflammation and damage to the joints that are mainly located in your lower back. When you first develop the condition, it affects the sacroiliac joints between your spine and the pelvis.
The main difference is that AS affects men three times more than women. Inflammation also occurs where the tendon inserts into the bone, unlike RA which primarily affects the membrane that lines the joint.
Lupus is another disease that can mimic the symptoms of RA. It is a chronic autoimmune disease, which means that your antibodies attack your own tissues rather than foreign invaders. If you have lupus, you’ll most likely develop rashes, pain and joint swelling. You’ll also experience fatigue and muscle aches.
It is not unusual for a person to get lupus and RA at the same time.
Fibromyalgia is a disease that makes you feel chronic, widespread pain in your muscles and soft tissues. You’ll feel tired all the time and have poor sleep.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder of your central nervous system that causes abnormal pain processing.
Lyme disease is caused by black legged tick bites. It is an inflammatory disease that causes flu-like symptoms, joint inflammation and stiff neck. It is very difficult to treat and incidents of the disease have been rising in recent years.
If you think you have Lyme, a blood test can help you confirm this.
If you experience a relatively sudden swelling and intense pain in your joints, particularly in your knees, you might have pseudo gout. It might come and go, with bouts lasting for weeks to months.
Also known as calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease, it is caused by deposits of crystals within the joint.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) affects children under 16 years old. It is the most common form of juvenile arthritis, of which there are seven subtypes. These subtypes are categorized according to such things as how many joints are affected, positive or negative rheumatoid factor and systemic involvement.
If you’re over 16 years old. JIA can be diagnosed as RA.
Palindromic arthritis is an inflammation in your joints, tissue, or muscles that come and go. You might feel the pain and swelling of inflammation last for a few hours to several days, but then it will all go away and you’ll be back to normal.
These bouts don’t usually cause lasting damage, which is how you know it’s not RA.
Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
Also known as Sharp’s Syndrome, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) is an autoimmune disease. It can mimic several other diseases, like lupus and scleroderma.
You may feel tired all the time, sick and have swelling in the fingers and extreme pain in your joints. Deformities can also develop like RA.
Reactive arthritis is another autoimmune disease that is very rare. It occurs as an abnormal response to infection, usually affecting your gastrointestinal, urinary, or genital area.
You’ll feel inflammation in the joints, specifically in your knees and feet, as well as possibly your eyes, skin and urethra. A particular subtype of reactive arthritis is Reiter’s Syndrome, which affects the joints, eyes and urethra. Any symptoms you feel usually disappear within a year.
Chickungunya virus affects more people in countries of the Caribbean, Africa, and South and Central America, as well as India, where it is spread by mosquitoes. Some North Americans have also been affected, but it is rare.
If you’ve been affected by Chickungunya, you’ll first develop a high fever, which will lead to a rash and severe joint pain. While the fever and rash may disappear in a week to 10 days, the joint pain may last for a year to 15 months. In severe cases, joint pain can last up to three years or so, mimicking RA.
Still’s Disease is a type of inflammatory arthritis that is rare. It usually starts with a salmon-colored rash that doesn’t feel itchy, accompanied by high fever that may come and go.
Joint pain appears a few weeks later. If you’re under 16 years old and get Still’s disease, it is known as Systemic-Onset Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.
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