Arthritis is a common issue that affects people worldwide. While there are over 100 different types of arthritis, most people are affected by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, gout, or lupus. Out of these common types, rheumatoid arthritis (also known as RA) is generally thought of as one of the more painful and complicated. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are many ways for a patient to have a happy, healthy, life with pain and symptom management.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. These occur when the immune system attacks other parts of the body instead of harmful bacteria or germs. Autoimmune disorders like Multiple Sclerosis attack other organs or parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joints. There are many theories on what causes autoimmune disorders, but for RA there is no cure. However, there are ways to help strengthen your body and suppress the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of RA
The main symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is swelling in the joints. Swelling comes from inflammation, which is what the autoimmune disorder creates. This swelling leads to pain, stiffness, and restricted use of the joint. The most commonly affected areas are usually the hands, wrists, and knees. This can lead to more long-term issues such as joint deformity, chronic pain, unsteadiness, and it can also spread to other soft tissues like the heart, eyes, and even lungs. This is why RA tends to be categorized as the most painful form of arthritis, as it often leads to chronic and difficult to manage pain.
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are several ways to treat RA and there are also ways to reduce your symptoms long term.
One of the most common treatment paths for arthritis is medications. To reduce swelling, NSAIDS (non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) can make a great difference and are inexpensive and safe. However, long term use of NSAIDS can lead to some issues. Steroids are also a good treatment option as they reduce inflammation and pain, and can also slow joint deterioration. Unfortunately, these also cause issues long term. Other medications can slow degeneration of the joints and strengthen them, reduce pain, and help avoid permanent damage. Sadly, many of these medications have side effects. Ointments and creams can help numb the pain and help with symptoms, especially in the hands and wrists.
Physical therapy is a great treatment for arthritis and it is something that most people can accomplish. It helps you learn to function without putting more wear and tear on your joints, helps you strengthen the joints, and strengthen the surrounding muscles. This leads to better daily life and ability. Some patients are not able to do physical therapy, but for those who can, it can truly be life changing.
There are several surgeries that can help improve a patient’s arthritis symptoms. One option is called a synovectomy, which removes the synovium, a part of the tissue that covers each joint in the body. If this is removed, it gives the patient a greater range of motion and relieves pain. Another option is joint replacement, which completely removes and replaces the afflicted joint. This occurs most commonly for patients with hip or knee arthritis specifically. Another option is joint fusion, which connects the bones and seals the joint together, which generally removes the pain and swelling. This surgery works best on smaller joints. Other options include tendon repair, cartilage repair, and more.
Ways to Reduce Symptoms
Many patients find that weight loss helps their symptoms, so healthy weight loss can be a great option. Obesity can increase your RA symptoms and make things even more difficult for these patients. Regular exercise and movement is extremely beneficial to arthritis patients. When you may be in pain, exercise feels like the last thing you want to do, but it truly improves and helps reduce symptoms of arthritis. If you are a smoker, this can actually make your RA worse and causes other issues for you. Quitting smoking can reduce many of your symptoms and will help you long term as well! Other helps include getting mental health treatment, eating a nutritious and healthy diet, and protecting your joints with physical aids like braces or other assistive devices.
Take Care of Your RA
Rheumatoid arthritis can be a difficult disease to deal with, which means that a caring and effective team of doctors can make an enormous difference. Make an appointment with our office today so we can help you with your arthritis symptoms. You can have a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life after your diagnosis!