Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic disorder that mainly targets your joints. However, it can affect other body systems, including your eyes, lungs, skin, blood vessels, and even heart. Generally, Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your body tissues.
Unlike the wear-and-tear that occurs in osteoarthritis, RA impacts your joint linings that result in painful swelling. Consequently, the swelling leads to joint deformity and bone erosion. The inflammation of the joints and their lining can also damage other parts of your body. Despite the medical improvements in treatment, severe Rheumatoid Arthritis can lead to physical disabilities.
More than 60% of rheumatoid patients are unable to carry on working after 10 years of onset of RA. Moreover, nearly 54 million Americans develop rheumatoid arthritis. Hence, it is one of the most common inflammatory diseases. It is beneficial to learn what it’s like to live with rheumatoid arthritis.
What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Since RA is a chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorder, the symptoms are easy to detect, which is crucial to start the treatment. Here are some of the joint-related symptoms that you might experience if you have RA:
- Joint Stiffness
- Lack of Function
- Severe Deformity
These symptoms can affect various body organs. Therefore, the pain levels can vary from acute to chronic conditions. In severe cases, an RA flare can cause exacerbation of any symptom, interfering with everyday tasks such as preparing meals, getting dressed, or even bathing. Early detection will help deal with the condition better.
What Are the Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
In RA disorder, your body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells in the joint. While the specific causes are not certain, here are some factors that increase your risk for RA.
- Genetics/ Inherited Diseases
The presence of specific genes in your body makes you susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis. It is the human leukocyte antigen (HLA), a genotype of class II, which makes RA worse.
The risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis is higher in older people. Although people of any age can have RA, it is common in adults over 60.
Smoking and tobacco consumption make the condition of RA worse and may even increase the risk of its onset in the first place.
The prevalence of RA is higher in women than men, at least three times more common. In addition, RA is most likely to develop in women who haven’t given live birth. Experts believe women get autoimmune diseases in greater numbers because their immune system is more reactive and stronger.
Overweight and prolonged obesity can result in rheumatoid arthritis.
- Different Environmental and Lifestyle Factors
Early exposures to smoking, inadequate healthcare, etc., can also lead to an increase in the risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
What Are the Health Effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Joint pain and swelling are not the only signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis. In fact, it affects some other parts of your body. Here are some examples:
- Skin– tiny skin lumps (rheumatoid nodules) near the affected joints and body parts
- Eyes– RA can lead to dryness, pain, extreme light sensitivity, redness, inflammation, and puffiness near the eyes. It can also disrupt the sight to a certain extent based on its severity.
- Blood– lower red blood cells
- Blood Vessels– RA can cause inflammation in the blood vessels. This can lead to nerve skin, nerve, and organ damage.
- Mouth– infections, dryness, irritation, and gum inflammations can occur.
- Heart- Heart muscles are always at risk of damage due to blood vessel inflammation caused by rheumatic arthritis.
- Lungs– rheumatoid arthritis can scar and inflame your lungs that can lead to lung diseases while also causing shortness of breath.
What Are the Physical Complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The life-disturbing and deteriorating social and physical consequences of Rheumatoid Arthritis include disabilities, pain, and also premature heart diseases. Here are some of the life complications that can arise due to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
Obese individuals who also have rheumatic arthritis are at high risk for a lot of medical conditions. These include high blood pressure and the risk of diabetes. What’s more, the benefits of RA treatments aren’t as effective on obese patients in comparison to healthy patients.
- Premature Heart Diseases
Doctors initially advise quitting smoking and suggest losing excess weight in order to minimize the risk of getting heart diseases due to RA.
- Employment Issues
As the joints swell and pain, you may face mobility issues. Moreover, considering the risk of accidents and additional facilities they may have to provide, employers tend to avoid hiring people with RA. Hence, it can potentially lead to mental stresses and problems (anxiety, depression, etc.)
What it’s like to live with Rheumatoid Arthritis
After experiencing rheumatoid arthritis and consulting your doctor, there are some significant life changes that you need to adopt in order to counter the severity of the disease.
Regular Exercise and Movement Routines
Regular exercise and movement routines in your daily life improve health and wellness. In simple words, sitting for too long will not only worsen the risk of other diseases from RA but also deteriorate the functioning capabilities of the body joints. Therefore, daily exercise helps maintain healthy physical functions.
Your doctor will recommend a set of diet plans for you. The diet will contain nutritious food portions, helping you maintain a healthy weight. What’s more, there are certain diet plans also available on the internet for RA-affected people.
Rheumatoid Arthritis swells the joints and inflames the tissues around them. This can result in extreme pain in some situations, while in other instances, you may not even notice any symptoms. However, for a stable physical and mental state, it is advisable not to overburden your body with activities or weight. In fact, taking breaks and rest periods throughout the day can assist in relieving joint pains and stiffness.
Meditation for Stress
RA can cause anxiety, stress, and even depression to some people. This can be due to all the painful periods, lack of employment due to medical conditions, and the lack of personal satisfaction due to a deteriorating physical condition.
However, a number of patients consider massages, acupuncture, deep breathing exercises, and stress therapies as appropriate ways to treat the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, they try to overcome, adapt and improvise their way of life according to their limitations and medical conditions.
You can reduce joint pain and stiffness, especially in the morning, by taking medical supplements. A natural diet such as omega-3 fish and its oil is great for minimizing arthritis pain. Additionally, turmeric might be a great natural supplement for RA pain. However, before you go for any over-the-counter supplements or natural supplements, make sure that you consult with your doctor beforehand. Hence, you can avoid experiencing side effects.
Positive Circle and Support
Surround yourself with friends and family who are always supportive and positive. Sharing your emotional burdens and getting support in tough situations create a sense of positivity. While living with a chronic medical condition may not be easy, there is hope to lessen the pain and lift the mood.
Other Treatment Options
Your doctor may prescribe more than one group of drugs to treat RA. As the symptoms progress from bad to worse, the medication also changes.
- Steroids (corticosteroids)
- NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs that are non-steroidal)
- DMARDs (Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs)
Physiotherapy involves specialist therapists who instruct and guide you about physical exercises. They focus on the pain points and suggest routines that best make use of the able joints and body parts. Subsequently, your body remains active, and you maintain flexibility, strength, durability, and fitness.
Once medication, therapies, and other means fail to treat RA, surgery becomes the next option. Here are some of the surgical procedures for RA.
- Tendon Repair– to repair loose or ruptured tendons around joints due to inflammation.
- Complete Joint Replacement– insertion of a prosthetic joint after removal of the damaged one
- Synovectomy– in order to get rid of the inflamed lining on the joints.
- Joint Fusion– once the joint replacement surgery is no longer viable, joint fusion takes place. It’s a surgical joint fusion to maintain the alignment of the affected joint.
While there isn’t a definite cure, widely extensive researches, studies, and experiments are underway to find the best treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. So, if you experience any of the symptoms in recurrence or if you think that you or someone else might be at risk of developing RA, then seek professional medical care.