Do you live with pain and stiffness in your joints, especially in the morning? When it rains is it worse for you? You could be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The classic symptoms of RA are tender and swollen joints.
The morning is usually the time you experience stiffness in your joints. You also may experience intense fatigue. This disease can also change your daily activity.
If you are living with this disease, what can you do to improve your symptoms, and improve your life? Let’s first start by understanding, what is RA?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing damage, pain and swelling.
The damage usually starts in the lining of the smaller joints like the fingers and the toes. It can progress to larger joints like the ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders and hips. Over time, if the inflammation is not controlled, it will cause deformity and alteration of function in that joint.
How is RA diagnosed?
In the early stages of the disease, it can be difficult to diagnose, especially because it mimics so many other diseases. So it is important to tell your doctor about all of the symptoms you notice, and get annual blood tests so that the combination can help with the diagnosis.
The blood tests most commonly done are for elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate or sed rate, as well as for rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinate d peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies.
Since RA is an autoimmune disease, the sed rate gives an indication of inflammation in the body. The rheumatoid factor test measures its amount in your blood. High levels of rheumatoid factor can indicate autoimmune disease.
What can you do to feel better?
Most people want to start with the most non-invasive choices first. Strengthening exercises can help the muscles around the joints become stronger. Make sure you work with an exercise expert to make sure you don’t cause damage to the joints, especially ones that are currently inflamed.
Going to therapy may be an option to improve joint flexibility. The therapists may also be able to teach you new ways to do tasks.
Hydrotherapy application of heat and cold water can help with pain, too. Cold is used to dull the sensation of pain. Heat can help relax tense muscles.
Stay relaxed, to reduce muscle tension and control pain. There have been studies to show that guided imagery can help with pain control.
Foods high in omega-3 essential fatty acids can reduce inflammation and pain. Eating a more plant-based diet increases fiber and nutrients that help reduce inflammation and those are important to include in you diet as well, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
In addition to eating foods that reduce inflammation, it is important to avoid foods that increase inflammation. Fried foods or meats cooked at high temperatures increase the amount of advanced glycation end products. AGEs have been found in people who have inflammation, so there is a concern that they are linked.
Can medications help?
There are medications that can reduce pain, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs provide temporary relief from pain, and reduce inflammation.
Corticosteroid medications also reduce inflammation and slow symptoms. The problem with corticosteroids are the side effects that cause damage to the bones, tissue, as well as weight and blood sugar issues. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can slow the progression of RA, and protect the joints and tissues from damage.
For advanced stages of the disease
Surgery is an option. Joint replacement removes the damaged part of the joint, and replaces with a metal or plastic one.
Tendons connect muscles to bones. Joint damage can cause tendons to loosen or rupture. Surgery can sometime repair the tendons. When joints are unstable or no longer aligned properly, they can sometimes be surgically fused for pain relief.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that can be managed in a number of different ways.
Using a combination of natural and conventional treatments, you can manage your RA and live a normal life.
This was originally published on EmpowHer.com.