Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease that causes joint pain and swelling.
It primarily involves inflammation of the lining of the joints but can also involve internal organs such as the eyes, lungs and heart.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, which means it lasts a long time. Many people with RA note that their arthritis symptoms change over time. At times, people with RA will notice their disease is more active and at others they will notice their disease is less active.
v Rheumatoid arthritis is a common disease.
v RA is an autoimmune disease. This means that the body's natural immune system does not act as it should. Instead of serving to fight off infections from bacteria and viruses, the immune system of a person with RA attacks its own body. This causes inflammation and damage. In RA, many parts of the body can be attacked by the immune system, but joints are the most common targets.
v Approximately 75 percent of people with the disease are women.
v It can occur at any age; however, RA often begins when people are between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.
v The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known.
v Scientists have learned that there are both genetic and environmental components to developing the disease. In other words, while there are certain genes associated with RA, there are many people with RA who do not have any specific genetic tendency for the disease. This means that something else, besides a person's genetic make-up, is needed to get the disease.
v Because rheumatoid arthritis frequently tends to attack the joints, most of its symptoms are joint-related. However, while the joints are the most likely part of the body to be affected in RA, it is important to remember that the disease is a systemic disorder and can also affect many other organs in the body, manifesting in other symptoms as well.
Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:
• Joint pains
• Joint swelling
• Joint stiffness
• Skin nodules (bumps under the skin)
It is often difficult to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The diagnosis of RA is made based on the careful analysis of many factors. A thorough history and physical examination are essential. Also, there are certain laboratory studies that can be helpful when considering the diagnosis. It is important to note that a diagnosis cannot be made based on any specific blood test, though some blood tests are helpful for ruling out other diseases that may have similar symptoms. X-rays are often helpful when considering the diagnosis of RA, particularly to look for any signs of joint destruction.
Medications and physical therapy are important in the management of RA. In addition, because RA is a chronic disease, people often require medical therapy for many years to keep the disease under control.
When it's cold outside, your arthritis symptoms can worsen. Cold temperatures make muscles, tendons and ligaments tighten. And when you tighten up, you increase the risk of joint injury or pain and you may not want to be active. Lack of exercise weakens the heart and can decrease muscle strength and cause weight gain. Inactivity also causes your joints to become more at risk for injury.
Extra weight means painful joints and weak muscles due to de conditioning. Please keep moving!
Few tips to help stay active:
ü Fluids: It's very important to drink water. Water helps maintain your body's fluid balance and improve circulation.
ü Diet: Healthy foods can help you fight arthritis by maintaining normal body weight. Eat a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, nuts and seeds. A multivitamin may be a good idea if you do not always eat a balanced diet. Most adults do not take in enough dairy products to maintain bone health. Calcium supplements and vitamin are essential to reduce risk of osteoporosis.
ü Exercise: Walking, yoga and swimming (and other activities) are important. These activities will increase blood flow, bring important oxygen to your body, and help reduce joint pain. Exercise also increases mobility and muscle strength. Remember to stretch gently so your muscles don't tighten up.
ü Rest: It's important to get regular, consistent sleep to give your body time to heal both from the exercise and cold weather. Good sleep also reduces fatigue and combats the winter "blues".
ü Warmth: Keep arthritic areas wrapped or protected with warm clothing.
ü Medications: Take your medicine on time every day as prescribed.
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