When people hear the word arthritis, they often don’t realize that there are many different forms of this disease. The term arthritis, is actually an umbrella term, which includes over 100 different types. Rheumatoid arthritis is just one form of arthritis a person can develop and this article will give you further information on this topic, especially if you have a family history of this disorder.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis sometimes abbreviated RA is a specific type of arthritis, a chronic progressive disease that causes swelling and inflammation in the bones and joints. An autoimmune disease meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. RA cannot be cured but there are many treatments available for helping to relieve the symptoms associated with this condition.
What Causes RA?
There are different risk factors for the disease, which are important to take into consideration, even more so if you think you are more likely to develop the disease yourself. Genetics play one of the most major roles in the development of this form of arthritis. If someone in your family has this type of arthritis, you are much more likely to acquire it as well. There are also certain environmental factors such as viral infections and hormonal changes which can cause you to develop RA.
The disease occurs when your immune system attacks your own body tissues and can have some devastating effects. You may not notice the onset of the disease, as the symptoms can be so subtle, but over time the symptoms can worsen and become more noticeable.
The condition can result in serious long-term effects, if not treated properly. It can wear away the ends of your bones, and can result in joint deformity and disability. Over time, the effects will only continue to worsen, which is why diagnosis and treatment as early on as possible is important. If you ever notice the signs and symptoms of the disease, you should report these to your doctor immediately so you can get started with treatment.
Symptoms of RA?
There are certain tell-tale signs and symptoms to watch out for, which can alert you that you may have developed this disease. The rheumatoid arthritis symptoms you are most likely to notice first include morning stiffness,fever,tiredness, swelling and pain around joints, and the onset of nodules. Nodules or small lumps under the skin can appear as a result of inflammation of small blood vessels. If you notice this on your skin, it may be a sign of the onset of RA.
There are certain triggers which can worsen your symptoms and you may notice at certain times the pain and swelling is worse, while other times hardly noticeable. In most cases, the symptoms are more severe after periods of intense activity, especially if you are very active, you may even notice your joints becoming deformed and shifting out of place.
How is it Diagnosed?
Proper diagnosis of the disease is essential, before you can get started with treatment. Your doctor will likely draw some blood to run a few tests, in order to determine whether or not you have the ailment. Imaging techniques and other tests may also be performed to confirm this disease. Always talk to your doctor or another medical professional to get the details and find out more. If you are diagnosed as positive, they can give you a better insight and offer helpful advice to ease your pain.
RA is a very accepted ailment. It’s certainly one of the most commonly reported types of arthritis. If you have persistent discomfort and swelling in your joints, it’s urgent that you get in to see your doctor as soon as possible. Call and make an appointment, and tell them of the different symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
What Treatments are Available?
Although there is no cure for the disease, you do have many choices in terms of the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor or rheumatologist (specialist in arthritis) will need to talk with you to discuss your treatment options and determine which is most suitable for you. It often takes a process of trial and error in order to figure out what works for you, as each person is different. You may be offered one or a combination of several options below:
Your lifestyle Try to maintain a healthy weight and diet. Always maintain a balance between exercise and rest. Seek advice from an occupational therapist,( they create a special programme for you to carry out your daily tasks). Also talk to a physiotherapist ( specialist in helping you regarding movement and mobility) Both of these can advise you regarding changes to your home, work,exercises,supports etc to put less strain on your joints.
Medications Non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs) such as asprin,ibuprofen can be taken to reduce the inflammation in your joints however long term use of these have been proven to damage kidney, heart and stomach.
Complementary therapies such as aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage, healing etc can be used to help with your pain and stiffness. Always consult your doctor before trying any complementary therapies as it may have interactions with other medicines which you may be taking.
Operation If the other treatments haven’t been successful then surgery may be the last resort. Operating procedures vary from person to person depending on your level of pain from minor surgery to major cases such as replacing a joint.
Day to day living with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Living with RA can be emotionally, physically, mentally tiring and frustrating at times as the condition is very unpredictable. As you battle on daily through pain and discomfort you may have days where you feel depressed and irritated. It is advisable to contact your doctor on how you are feeling and how the condition is having an impact on your life.
It will also be beneficial to get in touch with support organisations that can give you further advice and guide you to other people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. This will help you in finding out how they manage and you may be able to learn new techniques, treatments to improve your life.
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