Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Top Facts to Know

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA is a debilitating condition that affects more than a million people in the United States each year. It is a complicated disease, and there is no cure. The condition is a disease that affects the immune system of the body. For unknown reasons, the immune system attacks the joints, which causes inflammation that results in swelling and pain.

The places on your body that are affected by RA include fingers, hands, knees, or feet. This disease can cause illnesses that can affect certain organs of your body, such as the kidneys, eyes, and lungs. The symptoms of RA include fatigue, joint pain, tenderness in the joints, swelling in the joints, joint stiffness, and limping. You also might experience problems with your range of motion, anemia, and fever. If you have one or many of these symptoms, you probably need to see your doctor to come up with a treatment plan.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes

The causes of RA are not completely understood. When the disease occurs, your immune system attacks the lining of the membranes that surround the joints. This will eventually wear down the cartilage and bone that are within the joint. Your joints that are held together by tendons and ligaments will be weakened and stretched. The joint will eventually lose its shape and alignment.

Doctors are baffled as to what causes this process to occur. However, your genes can cause you to be susceptible to certain environmental factors. These factors might be infections associated with specific viruses and bacteria that may, in turn, bring on the disease.

If you have a family member with RA, you are more likely to develop the disease, compared to people without that genetic link. However, many people still develop the disease without having a family history of RA. In addition, if you are exposed to pollution, chemicals, or a traumatic injury, RA could develop. Smoking is said to be one of the leading causes of RA. If you have a history of smoking, you are at a higher risk of developing RA.

Studies reveal that women are much more likely to develop the disease than men; therefore, it is believed that hormones and hormonal changes could lead to RA. Certain pregnancy hormones and estrogen levels decrease with age, so it might cause the disease.

RA usually first develops in people who are middle-aged or older. Sometimes, the early symptoms can mimic the symptoms of the flu. Therefore, detecting RA could be difficult. You usually begin with symptoms that last up to 5 years. RA symptoms might then come and go, and you might go periods of time without symptoms; however, they can flare up at any time.

Diagnosing RA

If your doctor suspects that you have the disease, they will likely refer you to a rheumatologist for more tests. They are specialized in dealing with the disease. When visiting this expert, he will ask about your family history, and he will examine your joints to get an idea of the pain level you are experiencing. A blood test could be conducted to look at your levels of inflammation. In addition, your doctor could perform X-Rays or an ultrasound to look at the joints to see what might be causing the deterioration of the joints.

RA Treatment and Pain Management

Even though there is no cure for RA, there are things you can do to manage the pain. One of the first actions your doctor will take is putting you on pain medications. There are anti-inflammatory medications, such as Advil or Motrin, that help relieve some of the pain. Stronger prescription drugs are also available if the pain is severe enough.

Steroids can help reduce the inflammation and slow down the effects of joint damage. Your doctor might try to relieve pain you are experiencing when first diagnosed with the disease with the goal of gradually reducing the medication.

There are anti-rheumatic drugs that can slow down the progression of the disease. This medication can keep the joints and other tissues from being permanently damaged. Furthermore, there are certain biological agents that can target areas of the immune system that causes this specific harmful form of inflammation. However, some doctors might not like to use these drugs as they increase the risk of infections.

When you have RA, the doctor might order you to undergo physical or occupational therapy. There are exercises you can do to assist in keeping the joints flexible. You can work with a therapist who can recommend ways to go about your daily tasks. This could give your joints some relief. Your therapist could advise you on some devices that might make your everyday chores less painful.

If medications just are not working, surgery might be recommended. Some surgeries can help mend damaged joints. Surgery could remove the lining of the joint, and you can use this to repair knees, elbow, wrists, fingers, or hips. Tendons could also be repaired around the joint that will alleviate some of the pain.

Sometimes, you can fuse the joints to stabilize or realign the joints to provide relief. In some severe cases, complete joint replacement surgery may also be recommended. During the surgery, the surgeon will take out the damaged parts of your joints and puts in a prosthesis that is composed of metal and plastic. When surgery is performed, risk factors include bleeding, infection and rejection.

Foods that Help Arthritis

Your doctor might recommend altering your diet to deal with RA pain. Studies have shown that certain foods can help control inflammation. Some of these foods include fish, vegetables, and olive oil. Some fish recommended include salmon, tuna, and sardines. Vegetables that could be helpful consist of spinach and broccoli. Fruits, such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and strawberries could be helpful with RA.

Nuts and seeds have been known to fight inflammation of the joints. You can try walnuts, pistachios, and almonds. Beans have also been known to have inflammatory-fighting ingredients. Onions reduce inflammation and help fight heart disease.

There are certain foods that you need to try to avoid, such as processed foods. These include cookies, chips, and certain other snacks. You want to try to avoid canned vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables are much more effective. You also want to cut out the salt from your diet. Salt intake could cause high blood pressure, which will make your RA worse.

Dealing with RA can be stressful; however, your symptoms can be managed with the help of a doctor. It is a good idea to exercise regularly and get out of the house. RA does not have to control your life. You can cope effectively with it, and you can live a normal life.