OVER VIEW OF RHEUMATIC ARTHRITIS
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long time or chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition can damage a wide variety of body systems including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. An autoimmune disorder in the sense that rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s tissues causing severe damage.
Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis is what can damage other parts of the body as well. While new types of medications have improved treatment options dramatically, severe rheumatoid arthritis can still cause physical disabilities.
HOW CAN ONE COPE WITH RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS?
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you can take steps at home to manage your pain and stay active. Pay attention to your pain. Change your activity level or how you do a task to avoid making your pain worse.
When writing, doing crafts or driving make sure that you release your grip every 10 to 15 minutes. Also, when watching television or using the computer, get up and move around every 30 minutes. Look for tools and utensils designed for people with arthritis. Products such as anti-vibration gloves and large-diameter pens and kitchen utensils can reduce the pain caused by gripping or pinching movements.
Make sure that you balance or conserve energy. Balance periods of rest and activity during the day, and work at a steady, moderate pace with frequent short breaks. Stop and rest before you become too tired or sore. Soaking your hands or feet in warm or cool water may help relieve joint pain and stiffness. Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and be as physically active as you can.
If you are overweight, even a modest amount of weight loss can ease pressure on your joints. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you out.
ARE THERE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include tender, warm and swollen joints, joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity, fatigue, fever and loss of appetite. Though early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect one’s smaller joints first, particularly the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet. As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders.
Risk factors that may increase your or one’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis include the following:
AGE: Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but it most commonly begins in middle age.
YOUR SEX: Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
FAMILY HISTORY: If a member of your family has rheumatoid arthritis, you may likely have an increased risk of the disease.
SMOKING: Cigarette smoking increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, particularly if you have a genetic predisposition for developing the disease. Smoking also appears to be associated with greater disease severity.
OBESITY: People especially women age 55 and younger, who are overweight or obese appear to be at a somewhat higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OR EXPOSURES: Although poorly understood, some exposures such as asbestos or silica may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. This was clearly noticed when emergency workers exposed to dust from the collapse of the world trade centre are at higher risk of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
For more ideas about how to manage your joint pain, discuss it with your physician.