Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that can result in joint pain and damage throughout your body. The joint damage that RA causes usually happens on both sides of your body.  Therefore, if a joint is affected in one of your arms or legs, the same joint in the other arm or leg will probably be affected too. This is one way that doctors distinguish RA from other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis (OA).

Treatments work best when RA is diagnosed early, so it’s important to learn the signs.


Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Specific causes of RA are not known. However, there are some predisposing factors that increase the risk of RA, these include:

  • being a woman
  • having a family history of RA
  • exposure to certain types of bacteria, such as those associated with periodontal disease
  • having a history of viral infections like infection with the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis
  • trauma or injury, such as bone breakage or a fracture, dislocation of a joint, and ligament damage
  • smoking cigarettes
  • obesity

Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis

RA is a long-term or chronic disease marked by symptoms of inflammation and pain in the joints. These symptoms and signs occur during periods known as flares. Other times are known as periods of remission when the symptoms abate completely.

RA symptoms, which can occur throughout the body, include:

  • joint pain
  • joint swelling
  • joint stiffness
  • loss of joint function

Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. It’s important not to ignore your symptoms, even if they come and go and to seek management as soon as possible.


Managing Rheumatoid arthritis

Currently, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, certain treatment approaches can help manage the symptoms and control the inflammatory response which can in many cases result in remission. Decreasing inflammation can also help to prevent further joint and organ damage.


These include:

  • Medications

Your doctor will work with you to help decide of disease-modifying medications, pain medications and other disease inhibitors to use in managing your condition.

  • Home remedies

Get enough rest. You may need more rest during flare-ups and less during remission. Getting enough sleep will help to reduce inflammation and pain as well as fatigue.

  • Apply heat or cold

Ice Packs can help to reduce inflammation and pain. They may also be effective against muscle spasms. You can alternate cold with hot treatments such as warm showers and hot compresses. These treatments may help to reduce stiffness.

  • Dietary changes

A dietitian may recommend an anti-inflammatory diet for you to help with your symptoms. This type of diet includes foods that have lots of omega-3 fatty acids.  Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, E, and selenium, may also help reduce inflammation.

  • Physical Therapy

Physical therapy in the form of Low-impact exercises can help to improve the range of motion in your joints and increase your mobility. Exercise can also strengthen muscles, which can help to relieve some of the pressure from your joints.  Also, certain devices such as splints and braces can hold your joints in a resting position. This may help to reduce inflammation.  Canes and crutches can help you maintain mobility, even during flares. You can also install household devices, such as grab bars and handrails in bathrooms and along staircases. Physical therapy regimens are individualized and as such, your physical therapist will create an individualized rehabilitation plan tailored to their needs





Pain Relief for Arthritis