We all feel achy every now and then, but if you’re experiencing pain, swelling, stiffness or loss of function in your joints, you may have rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disorder that causes joint problems, mainly in a person’s hands, wrists and feet. The disease can come and go, and although the actual cause of it is unknown, there are ways to effectively recognize and treat the symptoms.  

Detecting Rheumatoid Arthritis

When it comes to Rheumatoid arthritis, it’s a fine line between achy joints and inflammation. Because RA can affect many areas of the body at once, it’s important to pay attention to a variety of symptoms.

Joint Stiffness

Note whether or not your joints are particularly stiff in the morning. If you have RA, it could take over an hour for your joints to loosen up. You might also experience limited range of motion, making it harder for you to use your joints.

Swelling, Pain & Heat

When you have RA, fluid enters the joints, making them puffy and swollen. Your bones may feel tender or sensitive because of the inflammation. RA can also cause redness and may feel warmer than other parts of your body.

Flu-like Signs

RA doesn’t just affect your joints. Some of the symptoms can be confused with the flu-like signs that last much longer than usual. RA can cause fatigue, loss of appetite and muscle aches.

RA Nodes

Sometimes, Rheumatoid arthritis causes tiny bumps under the skin that usually appear on the elbow. These nodes can be painful and may need to be removed.

Eyesight

RA may even affect your eyes. Look out for red, painful or unusually dry eye sockets.

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Most RA symptoms are treatable and the pain, swelling and joint damage can be reduced.  Once you are properly diagnosed, you can begin to weigh the different options of treatment.

Natural Treatments

There are things you can do at home to improve symptoms of RA. Care for your joints by applying hot and cold compresses to reduce swelling and inflammation. Exercise can decrease RA symptoms, but be sure not to overdo it. Consult your doctor before exercising to find safe, beneficial ways to utilize your joints. Special diets, such as consuming more proteins and calcium, have also been proven to reduce symptoms. Stress reduction is also important. Engage in meditation or breathing exercises that can help you to relax.

Medication

Medication is another option when treating rheumatoid arthritis. There are a few types of medication to choose from, all of which have different affects on the body. Consult your physician to determine the best option for you.

  • DMARDS – DMARDS are disease-modifying anti-rheumatoid drugs that will help slow the course of the disease, making it easier for you to get around without feeling pain.
  • Steroids – When it comes to RA, steroids can aid your body in getting rid of swelling and            inflammation. Some effective steroids used for RA include cortisone and prednisone.

Surgery

Sometimes, doctors will suggest surgery as a way of relieving the pain or making joints more functional. While this option is rare, joint replacement may be necessary to living a pain-free life.

Sources:
http://nihseniorhealth.gov/rheumatoidarthritis/whatisrheumatoidarthritis/01.html

Melanie Marzillo
Research & Community Education
Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living