These days, many people find themselves grappling with a condition referred to as rheumatoid arthritis. Although living with rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging, learning more about the disease can empower sufferers to lead a healthier, happier life.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Basics
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation of the joints. This inflammation results in immobility and painful deformity within various parts of the body, particularly the ankles, feet, wrists, and fingers. Currently, about 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from this condition.
What Rheumatoid Arthritis Looks Like
If you’re attempting to discern whether you or a loved one may have rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to familiarize yourself with signs indicating that the condition is present. One of the primary symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is pain in the muscles, back, and joints. Individuals who struggle with the disease will also typically experience weakness, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. Some other symptoms include malaise, anemia, and fatigue. Sufferers may also notice redness or lumps on the skin. Swelling and bumps on the finger are also signs of RA. Finally, sufferers may experience the sensation of pins and needles, physical deformity, and/or dry mouth.
Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Managing RA symptoms requires the implementation of various customized treatment services. Treatment services are used for several reasons, some of which include:
- Relieving symptoms
- Stopping inflammation
- Reducing long-term complications
- Improving overall well-being and physical function
- Preventing organ and joint damage
There are specific drugs that doctors prescribe to help those who struggle with RA. The drugs used to ease symptoms are called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They are available by prescription and over the counter. They are used to ease inflammation and arthritis pain. Some forms of NSAIDs include naproxen sodium, ketoprofen, and ibuprofen. These forms of medication can be applied directly to a swollen joint in cream or patch form. They can also be taken orally.
In addition to or as opposed to NSAIDs, doctors may prescribe medications that work to slow the activity of rheumatoid arthritis. Some of those drugs include:
- JAK inhibitors
In some cases, individuals with RA may need to undergo surgery. This is often the case when the condition limits the sufferer’s independence, mobility, and daily function. Joint replacement surgery can be used to restore the functionality of joints that have been severely damaged by rheumatoid arthritis. This surgery can also reduce pain. With this procedure, the damaged regions of the sufferer’s joints are replaced with plastic or metal parts. Replacements for the knee and hip are most common. Nevertheless, other regions of the body — such as the elbows, wrists, shoulders, and ankles — may also be in need of replacement surgery.
New treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are always in development. Right now, a class of drugs called biologics is being explored. The drugs are given through intravenous infusion or self-injection in the hospital or doctor’s office. Some of the biologics include:
These drugs can be pricey and insurance does not always cover them. As such, researchers are trying to create oral biologics, a form of drug that could be taken orally in pill form.
Another relatively new form of treatment for RA is a vaccine-style therapeutic approach that trains the patient’s body to ignore a peptide inaccurately identified as “foreign,” thereby preventing the production of the antibodies that would cause inflammation. Phase one of the clinical trials indicates that this new treatment is effective and safe.
Who Gets Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Some individuals are more likely than others to get RA. Specifically, there are several risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis that make an individual more susceptible to the condition. Some of them include:
- Women are more susceptible to acquiring rheumatoid arthritis than men.
- Although rheumatoid arthritis can manifest at any time in life, it is most likely to strike individuals when they are 40-60 years old.
- People who have family members with rheumatoid arthritis are more susceptible to the condition.
- Individuals who smoke cigarettes have an increased chance of developing RA. This is especially the case if the person in question also has a genetic predisposition for disease development. Additionally, smoking may be connected to a greater severity of the disease when it does manifest.
- Environmental factors. Although the extent to which environmental factors contribute to RA is not fully understood, experts agree that exposure to silica or asbestos may increase susceptibility to disease development.
- It seems that obese people are more likely to develop RA. Being overweight can also increase susceptibility to the disease. This is especially the case for women who are diagnosed with the condition at or prior to the age of 55.
Although rheumatoid arthritis can have a profoundly negative impact on one’s life, there are several preventative measures you can implement to prevent the disease from manifesting in your body. Some of them include:
People who eat a diet rich in the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients required for optimal physiological function can decrease their susceptibility to RA. While there is still dissent regarding which food sources individuals should attain their nutrients from, many dietitians and doctors agree that a plant-based diet is ideal. Luckily, there are numerous ways that an individual can begin incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the daily diet. One way is by juicing.
Another strategy individuals can implement to decrease susceptibility to RA is exercising regularly. In addition to boosting immunity, exercise is a great weight management tool that can help fight the onset of obesity. There are several forms of physical activity you can engage in to attain these health benefits. Some of them include:
- step aerobics
- Quit Smoking
As mentioned earlier, smoking increases susceptibility to RA. Thus if you are already a smoker, you should quit immediately. Doing so will decrease your likelihood of acquiring the disease. If you feel that you do not have the willpower to quit on your own, note that there are numerous resources you can utilize to make this positive behavioral change happen. One is undergoing hypnosis. Another option is over-the-counter nicotine patches that slowly decrease your physical dependence on the substance.
Although rheumatoid arthritis can be a difficult disease to grapple with, learning more about the condition can empower you to limit its control over your life. You can use the information found in this quick reference guide to help you deal with the disease in a manner that enables you to lead a more productive, positive life!