Arthritis: Two ‘surprising’ conditions that might precede rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis

Five warning signs of rheumatoid arthritis

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Months, or even years, before rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed, you might have been branded with a couple of other health conditions – two, specifically, that have been associated with the joint disease. More than 1.5 million patients whose data was stored on electronic health records were investigated. Over a 10-year time period, the researchers uncovered ‘surprising’ conditions that occurred more often in people later diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

The two conditions were carpal tunnel syndrome and urinary tract infections.

What’s carpal tunnel syndrome?

The NHS explained carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when there’s pressure on a nerve in the wrist.

This leads to tingling, numbness and pain in the hands and fingers, which can take months to get better.

Other signs of CTS include:

  • An ache or pain in your fingers, hand or arm
  • Numb hands
  • Tingling or pins and needles
  • A weak thumb or difficulty gripping

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“These symptoms often start slowly and come and go. They’re usually worse at night,” said the NHS.

Although the condition may resolve itself within a couple of months, wearing a wrist splint at night time might be recommended.

Using a splint can help to keep the wrist straight, which will help to relieve pressure off of the nerve.

You may need to wear the wrist splint continuously each night for a minimum of four weeks before it starts to feel better.

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In addition, anything that causes you to frequently bend your wrist or grip hard will have to be stopped during the recovery period.

This can include playing an instrument or using a vibrating tool, such as a lawn mower.

To ease painful symptoms, painkillers are a good short-term solution, which may be bolstered by hand exercises.

Steroid injections might be offered by a GP if a wrist splint doesn’t solve the problem.

As a last resort, surgery might be considered to cure CTS, which has a downtime recovery of about four weeks.

What are urinary tract infections (UTI)?

UTIs affects the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, or kidneys.

Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Pain or a burning sensation when peeing (dysuria)
  • Needing to pee more often than usual during the night (nocturia)
  • Pee that looks cloudy
  • Needing to pee suddenly or more urgently than usual
  • Needing to pee more often than usual
  • Blood in your pee
  • Lower tummy pain or pain in your back, just under the ribs
  • A high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
  • A very low temperature below 36C

Antibiotics may be prescribed, which need to be completed in order for them to work.

To help ease the pain – whether or not you have been prescribed antibiotics – you can take paracetamol.

The NHS also advises you “to drink enough fluids so you pass pale urine regularly during the day”.

Other conditions linked to rheumatoid arthritis from the research included:

  • Psoriasis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Gout

Printed in the British Medical Journal, the study was created from scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research.

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