What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects more than just your joints. This chronic inflammatory disease can also affect your skin, eyes, lungs, and other systems by attacking your own body’s tissues. Unlike other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints which can cause bone erosion and deformity.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Like many autoimmune diseases, doctors aren’t sure of the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis. Instead of your immune system fighting back, it actively works against you. Genetics seems to play a part but is not the exact cause of developing the disease. Genes can simply make you more likely to react to things that may trigger the disease.
What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Your symptoms will depend on the stage of arthritis you are in. Early symptoms include pain and tenderness in the joints, but redness and swelling are also seen in patients.
Other symptoms include:
- Morning stiffness lasting longer than 30 minutes
- More than one joint being affected
- The same joints on both sides of the body are affected
- Smaller joints (like the fingers or wrists) start to be affected first
- Eye or mouth dryness
- A lower-than-normal red blood cell count
- Inflammation in the heart, lunges, or blood vessels
What Are Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- Stiffness in the joints lasting longer than 30 minutes
- Fatigue- feeling tired without an explanation along with other symptoms
- Overall swelling- swollen hands or feet can be associated with RA
- Loss of function- this typically only happens when RA is left untreated. If your joint no longer functions, the cause could be RA. Therefore, it is highly important to speak with an orthopedic surgeon before a loss of function occurs.
Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Go Away?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, however, it can go into remission. The bright side is new treatments are being formed every day and some people are able to live with RA with little to no symptoms if they make the correct lifestyle changes and are on the correct treatment plan with their doctor.
What Helps Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Certain lifestyle changes could help your RA symptoms. Stress has been seen to cause RA to worsen, so trying to live a stress-free life is important. Practicing yoga, meditation, and consulting a therapist is a great way to help manage your stress and get your symptoms under control. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise plan are also lifestyle changes that can be made to help with symptoms of RA.
What are Treatment Options for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Agents (NSAIDs)
These medications help treat acute inflammation in the body which helps decrease pain. This helps in the short term but is not a long-term solution for RA.
Cortisone is a steroid that mimics the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisone injections help reduce inflammation and pain in the joint.
Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDS)
DMARDS are the only drugs shown to improve symptoms of RA and change the course of the disease. They slowly “modify” the disease by suppressing your body’s immune and inflammatory response.