Joint pain has many causes. In many cases, ongoing joint pain is due to osteoarthritis — a physical condition in which the cartilage in your joints wears away over time. However, joint pain can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition in which your body's immune system starts attacking the tissues in your joints. If you experience the following symptoms, there is a distinct possibility your joint pain is due to rheumatism, and you should arrange to see a rheumatologist.
Joint pain that comes and goes.
The joint pain of osteoarthritis is generally pretty consistent. It might be worse after you've done a lot of activity, but it does not completely come and go. If your joint pain is really bad for a few days, and then disappears for a while before getting really bad again, then you might instead be dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. The immune system gets over-active for a while before calming down again, and then it acts up again.
Dry mouth and eyes
Dry mucous membranes is a common early sign of rheumatoid arthritis, but people often overlook its connection to the joint pain that they are suffering. Your mouth may feel dry and cottony, causing you to want to sip water frequently. You might find yourself using eye drops more often, or you might find that you are unable to wear your contacts because your eyes are so dry. The same immune reactions that are compromising your joints are compromising your mucous membranes. Treatment from a rheumatologist will address both.
You may notice that your joints are not just sore and stiff, but also tender. In other words, if you touch the joint or run your hands over it, the area feels sore. This tenderness may be most pronounced after you get a lot of physical activity Osteoarthritis causes internal joint pain, but not this touch-based tenderness seen with rheumatoid arthritis.
The immune reaction that causes the joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis can often cause periodic fevers. You might think you have had a coming-and-going infection. The fever is low, usually around 100 degrees, and only lasts a couple of days, at most, before going away again. You might experience chills along with the fever.
If you notice any or all of the signs above, contact a rheumatologist for an appointment. There's a good chance your joint pain is due to an auto-immune condition, and these specialist doctors are your best bet for effective treatment.