Many individuals in the United States suffer from arthritis today. This common condition affects people of all ages, and it is more common than you might think. If you know someone with arthritis, then you are most likely familiar with the pain, discomfort, and difficulty they often experience. How do you know if you are at risk for developing this condition? And are there effective treatment options? First of all, there are a number of different types of arthritis that people suffer from, and the symptoms for each of these do vary. Therefore, just because your hands feel different does not necessarily mean you have arthritis.
However, learning about the symptoms will give you a better idea of what symptoms to look out for and when to see a doctor. One of the most common types of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA basically means that the white cells and antibody proteins that are in your blood to fight off infections actually enter your joints. This causes excess fluid to be produced, which causes heat and swelling of the joint. Over time this leads to the bone being worn away due to thinning of the cartilage that covers the ends of your bones.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can include:
- swollen joints which are warm to the touch
- ‘hot’ joints which are painful
- stiffness after being in one position for a long time (i.e. sleeping through the night)
- no grip in your hands
- weight loss
- Rheumatoid nodules – fleshy lumps that usually appear on your hands, feet and elbows
RA usually develops slowly and you will usually notice symptoms in a small number of joints to start with (i.e. fingers, knuckles, wrists, etc). Sufferers will usually notice that symptoms are mirrored and both wrists will suffer the same way, or both ankles, etc. For some people, however the disease is fast-paced and can develop quickly. Regardless, it is important to realize that if you notice a difference in the function and ability of your hands or joints, it could be an indication that you have developed RA. It is important to speak with a doctor and receive a proper evaluation.
As with most conditions, symptoms develop differently for different people. Your age will also affect how much of an effect the symptoms have on you. Some people find that they have pain all of the time where as others find symptoms come and go sporadically. There is no way of predicting when a RA flare up will occur, however you may notice a pattern in your symptoms. Also, keep in mind younger people have an advantage in terms of time. Although the statistics may be on their side, some people still suffer tremendously from RA at a young age.
Individuals that suffer from this condition can benefit from working to create a positive atmosphere for their lives. You can consult with your doctor for suggestions on what you can change in your life to help you cope with your arthritis. However, the following are examples of ideas that are not only effective at helping you throughout your battle with arthritis, but also extremely easy to implement.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments
- Self Help – The best way to overcome your personal battle with arthritis will be on your own. You need to recognize and strike a balance between exercise and rest. Gentle exercise can help relieve arthritis symptoms, however too much can make it worse. This is a personal threshold and you will learn how far you can push yourself.
- Lose Weight – Being overweight can put unnecessary pressure on your joints. Losing any of this excess weight will relieve this pressure. Although exercise may be hard, which can hinder your chances of losing weight, you should try to stick to a healthy eating plan.
- Learn New Skills – You will be able to learn new ways of doing this. Once you are diagnosed with RA you will be assigned an occupational therapist who will be able to teach you these methods to help make your life easier.
- Food supplements – There is a limited amount of evidence to show that food supplements can help relieve arthritis symptoms. These include omega-3 fatty acids (such as oily fish), borage seed oil, and evening primrose oil.
Unfortunately arthritis symptoms cannot be cured; however, there are medications that you can be prescribed, which can relieve symptoms. These medications help many arthritis sufferers to live a comfortable and normal life.
- Pain killers – Standard pain killers such as paracetamol can help you manage pain
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – These reduce swelling and inflammation and, as a result, relieve pain.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic tablets – These work in two ways. First they relieve symptoms and secondly they can help slow down the progression of the disease.
- Biological Medicines – As a last resort you may be prescribed medicines made from human or animal proteins. They can help slow down the onset of the condition, but are only used as a last resort.
There are also creams and gels you can get that help relieve symptoms. On their own these are not overly efficient, but can help when mixed with other pain relief. As a real last resort if other treatment has not worked, you may be referred to a surgeon.
Surgery For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Operations recommended to reduce Rheumatoid arthritis pain include:
- Knee or hip replacement
- Repair/remove inflamed tendons
- Synovectomy to remove the lining of an inflamed joint.
If you find yourself suffering any type of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms that it is important that you seek medical advice. Arthritis is both painful and progressive, which is why it is vital that you start treatment as soon as possible. The disease is manageable and many Americans are living with few problems. This is usually a result of good pain management and skilled doctors. Finding the right mix of therapy and medication can take time, and so the sooner you start treatment for rheumatoid arthritis the sooner you can be on the right path to being as pain-free as possible.
One Final Note About Rheumatoid Arthritis
When considering rheumatoid arthritis, it's important to remember that many of the symptoms on their own are just everyday parts of life, especially as we age. If you wake up feeling stiff, don't immediately run to conclude you have RA. Developing anxiety over getting certain conditions is a real challenge for some. If you begin to experience an unhealthy level of anxiety over having or developing RA, speak to your doctor or to a mental health professional.
You should never attempt to self-diagnose RA. In order for a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis to be made, you need the opinion of a trained medical professional. Looking at a set of symptoms and assuming you have a certain condition is a recipe for disaster. There are other conditions that can present similar symptoms, so it's important you get a professional opinion.
In addition, you should never attempt to self-treat. There are a lot of treatments available for RA; there is no need for you to go out and try to make your own. You might hear about miracle treatments online, but these should be taken with a grain of salt. More often than not, they are not backed by reputable scientific research and evidence.
Don't trust any information you see online that doesn't cite a reputable source, or reference high quality scientific research. Always talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about RA, or about any other medical conditions.
The content of this article should not be taken as professional medical advice.
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