While there are multiple types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the only one that is auto-immune in nature. Autoimmune conditions develop when the body attacks itself, much like when the body has a virus, and it tries to defeat the foreign invader. However, while the body is correct in trying to attack viruses and various bacteria, the body should not be attacking itself. Inflammation related to RA is caused by the body attacking the cells, usually in the fingers, wrists, and knees. This attack causes the initiation of an inflammatory process, which leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling of the joints.
RA can be incredibly debilitating because it can cause damage to the joint tissue due to continuous inflammation of the surrounding structures. This can cause chronic pain to develop, in addition to a lack of coordination and physical deformity of the affected joints. In general, quality of life can be significantly impacted by RA. Much like many other autoimmune conditions, there are times when the disease flares up and times when the condition will go into remission. Symptoms of RA include pain, stiffness, swelling, fatigue, and weakness. While the physical effects are usually seen in the joints, autoimmune conditions can produce systemic symptoms, such as fatigue and weakness. The systemic effects can be one of the distinguishing factors between osteoarthritis and RA.
Causes of the condition can vary from obesity, smoking, age, gender, and genetic factors. For instance, women and the elderly population are at a higher risk of developing RA. Interesting enough, according to the Center for Disease Control, women who breastfeed are less likely to be diagnosed with RA. The diagnostic process involves analyzing blood work and reported symptoms. Rheumatologists are doctors who specialize in arthritis, and they will be able to help you manage the condition. There are a variety of treatment methods on the market today. While anti-rheumatic drugs are incredibly helpful and beneficial, it is essential to utilize appropriate holistic measures to improve quality of life and decrease pain associated with the condition.
Complications can arise from this condition, such as heart disease and obesity. It can be challenging to hold down a job, especially if your RA is not well-managed. There are two vital factors to adequately cope with RA which include engaging in physical activity and joining a support group. It is incredibly helpful to join a group, whether it is specifically targeted towards those suffering from RA or those dealing with chronic pain. RA can not only be physically disabling, but it can also be mentally draining. By speaking with others who know what you are going through, some of that mental and emotional weight can be lifted. As hard as it may be, it is essential to get up and get moving every day. Movement and physical activity can significantly reduce pain and loosen up stiff joints. Joints are usually stiff in the morning time, so a morning walk, run, bike ride or swim can positively contribute to your overall health and decrease pain related to RA. If you have more questions regarding RA, speak with a physician near you.