Important Things to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a complicated disease that causes your body’s immune system to start behaving differently. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, treatments and prognosis for RA.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes the immune system to start attacking the body’s own tissues, resulting in pain and inflammation. Individuals suffering from this disease deal with swelling, pain, and redness in the lining of the joints. Fortunately, there is plenty of information available online that people diagnosed with this condition can access. It’s possible for people to develop rheumatoid arthritis at any age, however most people are diagnosed with this condition between the ages of 30 and 60.
It is particularly important that women learn to identify the early symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis because they’re more likely to be affected by this disease. While men are less likely to be diagnosed, it is also important for them to learn to identify the indicators of rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – What Is It?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the functionality of the immune system. The immune system begins to harm itself by attacking the body’s joints. This leads to pain and swelling which can become quite uncomfortable and disrupt one’s daily life.
Although the joints are most commonly affected, rheumatoid arthritis can also hard other bodily systems like the heart, lungs, eyes, skin, and blood vessels.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients may also become a victim of joint deformity and bone erosion if the problem isn’t managed properly. A study by the American Arthritis Foundation shows that over 1.5 million Americans are affected by this disease. Fortunately, you can improve the quality of life if rheumatoid arthritis is detected early and an effective treatment plan is developed.
In severe cases, rheumatoid Arthritis can damage the cartilage if it’s not treated on time. As a result, your bones may move out of space or they may start rubbing against each other.
Swelling, warmth, pain, stiffness, weight loss, fatigue, decreased appetite and fever are some common symptoms of the disease. Sometimes, these symptoms take place instantly and sometimes, they begin to appear over the course of a few years. Please don’t ignore these symptoms, even if they only appear every once in a while.
One major difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is that rheumatoid arthritis leaves the same impact on both sides of the body. For instance, if your left hand feels sore and in pain then your right hand is likely to feel the same pain. With osteoarthritis you are more likely to experience pain in only one side of the body.
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains a mystery, but health care professionals believe that something triggers it by causing the immune system to attach the joints. Many health experts believe there is a genetic component to the disease, although they are yet to come to a conclusion on exactly what that is.
Experts also believe that obesity and smoking can be risk factors for developing this disease. Other risk factors include bone trauma like dislocations, breakage, fracture or ligament damage.
Some studies suggest that genetics may also play a role in promoting this disease. People with a family history of rheumatoid arthritis or autoimmune diseases are at a greater risk. It’s important to note that anybody can fall victim to this disease, even if you don’t have a family history at all.
As we’ve mentioned above, gender is one of the greatest risk factors. Unfortunately, women are more likely to become a victim of this disease.
There are several treatments to manage the symptoms of this disease but sadly there is no cure for this disease right now. Most treatments are used to control the inflammatory response and manage the pain. These treatments can slow the organ and joint damage that occur over time. In some cases, doctors suggest surgery to avoid the major risks associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Most cases won’t require surgery and instead focus on using prescription medications.
Your doctor will select the most suitable medication for you based on the symptoms you are experiencing. For instance, if you are suffering from increased inflammation and pain, the doctor may suggest Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. But when it comes to slowing down the joint damage, they may suggest steroids like corticosteroid medications.
Sometimes, it’s important to slow down the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. In this situation, the doctor may suggest disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs to protect the joints from permanent damage.
The patient can also improve their flexibility with the help of a physical or occupational therapist. These therapies can make your daily life more joint-friendly.
Patients can improve their range of motion as well as their flexibility by performing low-impact exercises. These exercises can relieve some pressure from the muscles while boosting strength. Tai chi, yoga and a brisk walk are some common exercises you can perform daily. However, you shouldn’t put pressure on joints that are already injured, tender or severely inflamed.
Apply Heat and Cold
You can relax your muscles by applying heat to the affected area. Similarly, you can reduce the pain with the help of a cold compress. The best part is that it may also help with reducing the swelling of muscles and joints.
Whenever you’re experiencing flare-ups, you must consider getting a lot of rest. You must also learn how to manage stress so that you can sleep comfortably. Deep breathing, guided imagery and muscle relaxation are some useful techniques that can be used to manage stress.