About 1.5 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but many do not know the source of the disease or how to alleviate its symptoms. In this post, we will look at what rheumatoid arthritis is and who is most likely to be affected. Also, we’ll dive into what it’s like to experience symptoms and how to find relief living with RA.
What is Rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic and painful autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the tissue that lines the inside of the joints (known as the synovium). This causes swelling in areas that would normally help the joints move, and that inflammation becomes the source of the pain. Bottom line: the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks the joints.
Who is most likely to get rheumatoid arthritis?
Women are three times more likely than men to have RA, and their initial symptoms usually appear between the ages of 30 and 60. While you are more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis if you have a family member who has it, most RA sufferers have no family history of it.
If you suspect you may have it, but are not sure, check these common symptoms and see if they match yours:
Joint stiffness (mainly in the morning)
Joint tenderness and / or swelling (also called a “flare”)
Loss of appetite
Rheumatoid nodules (small bumps under the skin)
Dry mouth and irritation of the gums.
Visual sensitivity to light
Difficulty breathing (caused by lung inflammation)
Nerve damage (resulting from inflamed blood vessels
What is it like to live with rheumatoid arthritis?
If you are battling rheumatoid arthritis, you can lead a normal, active life, but you may need to practice self-care to minimize pain and symptoms. Here are some ways that people with RA manage it:
Physical activity. Regular exercise is vital. Staying strong and keeping your muscles active is a great way to reduce pain. Suggested activities include low-impact aerobics, dance, Pilates, yoga, and other exercises that strengthen muscles and promote flexibility. Patients should consult a physician or physical therapist for recommended activities based on their abilities and then decrease the intensity if any joint damage has already occurred.
Diet. Eating foods that help keep inflammation down can be very beneficial for those with RA. Most of these items are included in the traditional menu of the Mediterranean diet of fish, olive oil, fruits and vegetables. Foods to avoid include anything processed, such as packaged crackers and crackers, and fast foods.
Temperature therapies. Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis find relief using heating pads and hot baths to relieve stiff joints and muscles. Alternatively, for rapid reduction of inflammation to numb acute pain, ice packs can be used.
Break. Although it’s important to keep your joints active so they don’t stay stiff for too long, you need to balance exercise and physical activity with plenty of rest. Especially when a “flare-up” occurs, you need to allow the swelling to subside and relieve pain before putting more pressure on those joints.
Community. Connecting with other people with rheumatoid arthritis and / or discussing the condition with supportive friends and family can help you mentally navigate the condition.
What are the treatment options for those with rheumatoid arthritis?
Although there is currently no cure for it, there are many rheumatoid arthritis treatment options that can be used for relief, in addition to the self-care tips above.
Topical treatments. Whether in the form of creams, gels or patches, the options applied directly to the skin can be very soothing, reducing inflammation and pain.
Supplements. Taking supplements such as omega-3 fish oil capsules and turmeric can relieve morning stiffness and pain, but it is important to discuss this option with a doctor to confirm that there will be no interactions with any other prescription medications.
Medicines. There are a variety of medications that can help slow the progression of the disease. Some of these include: corticosteroids (to dramatically reduce inflammation); DMARD (to slow down the immune system);