– How to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. It affects approximately 2 million people in the United States alone. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis vary depending on the type of joint involved. Some common symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, fatigue, fever, and redness.
If you suspect that you have rheumatoid arthritis, see your doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent permanent damage to your joints.
What are the top symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
The most common symptom of RA is aching or tenderness in one or more joints. Other possible signs and symptoms may include:
- Swelling around the eyes, face, hands, feet, ankles, wrists, knees, elbows, shoulders, neck, chest, back, hips, buttocks, fingers, toes, or other body areas. This usually occurs when there’s a fluid buildup under the skin.
- Redness and warmth over the involved area.
- Painful movement of any part of the body.
- Difficulty moving parts of the body due to stiffening of muscles and ligaments.
- Weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- Changes in bowel habits.
- Shortness of breath.
- Coughing up blood.
What are the causes of rheumatoid arthritis?
It isn’t much known about what triggers rheumatoid arthritis. However, some factors appear to be linked with developing this condition. These risk factors include:
- Genetics – Having specific genes increases your chance of getting RA by as much as ten times. People who inherit these genetic traits from both parents also increase their chances of having RA.
- Smoking – Cigarette smoking has been associated with increased risks for many diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, including emphysema and bronchitis. Studies suggest that smokers are at greater risk for developing RA than nonsmokers. Studies show that women who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy are twice as likely to give birth to children later diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis compared to non-smoking pregnant mothers.
- Infection – An infection in the lungs called pneumonia has been shown to trigger rheumatoid arthritis in some patients. Researchers believe that bacteria enter the bloodstream through small airways in the lungs, where they cause infections. When the immune system responds against the invading microorganisms, it releases chemicals into the bloodstream that can travel throughout the entire body, causing problems such as JIA.
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis?
Treatment options for rheumatoid arthritics range from medications to surgery. Medicines used to treat rheumatoid arthritis include anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, biologic agents, and DMARDs. NSAIDs work by blocking prostaglandins, substances produced by cells lining the inside walls of our bodies that contribute to inflammation. Steroids reduce swelling and relieve painful symptoms caused by inflammation. Biologics are proteins made naturally by the human body. They’re designed to block specific molecules that play essential roles in triggering inflammatory reactions. DMARDS slow down bone destruction and improve function.
Surgery may be needed if you’ve had severe joint damage. Your doctor will discuss various treatments for rheumatoid arthritis with you before making recommendations. You might need several different types of treatments to manage your condition effectively. There’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Don’t expect to feel better overnight. Instead, focus on driving your symptoms so you can lead an everyday life.
How should you identify whether your child has rheumatoid arthritis?
Children often develop rheumatoid arthritis between ages 5 and 15 years old. If your child develops swollen joints, especially after being injured, he should visit his pediatrician right away. A physical examination will determine whether your child needs further tests.
Immediately contact your doctor if you experience any symptoms from above!