Living with rheumatoid arthritis can be very difficult; however with today's medical treatments, exercise programs and support system we can have an active and productive life.
Rheumatoid Arthritis generally strikes between the ages of 20 â€“ 50 years old but can attack babies as young as 6 months old (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) and those over 50 years old. Approximately 1% of the world's population has RA but it is found 3 times more in woman than in men.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Morning stiffness, inflamed joints, fatigue, pain, muscle aches, fevers, swollen glands, weight loss. RA can also affect your lungs, heart and eyes, and depression
Most people with rheumatoid arthritis will feel it in the wrists, knuckles, knees, ankles, fingers and the joints in the ball of the foot. Other joints that can also be affected are the joints in the cervical spine, shoulders, elbows, temporomandibular joint (jaw), and even the very small joint bones in the inner ear. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause damage to organs such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, nerves, blood, or kidneys.
What causes RA?
The cause is still unknown but researchers believe it may be triggered in people with a genetic predisposition by an infection, tissue injury, or emotional trauma.
Rheumatoid arthritis treatment should include medications, reduction of joint stress, physical and occupational therapy, and when necessary surgical intervention. A rheumatologist is a physician trained with the necessary skill and experience to reach an accurate diagnosis and develop the most suitable treatment plan that will work for you.
Medications for RA
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) these drugs are designed to slow down disease progression. The most common DMARDs is Methotrexate
- Anti-inflammatory medication â€“ Aspirin, Advil, Motrinâ€¦
- Vioxx and Celebrex are just a few COX-2 inhibitors used to block the COX-2 is an inflammation enabling enzyme.
- Plaquenil and Azulfidine are antimalarial medications that often combined with Methotrexate for better control of the disease.
- Another medication that can be used with Methotrexate is Kineret which blocks the inflammatory protein interleukin-1
- Other immune suppressants are Imuran, Embrel, Humira
- Corticosteroid (Prednisone) has been used for over 40 years to help those suffering from RA. Unfortunately long term use has some very serious side effects.
Herbal treatments have helped control pain and inflammation for some people with RA: hydrolyzed type II collagen, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, shark cartilage, omega 3 fish oil
Hot paraffin wax treatments work very well for wrists, fingers, ankles, feet and elbows. Blood circulation improves in the body, decreases the pain and is very relaxing. Cold or hot pads can also help to reduce the swelling and pain. Warm baths will loosen the muscle which can be beneficial especially before exercising.
Exercise is important for people with rheumatoid arthritis. But it should be a low impact aerobic exercise and/or water exercise. It is important to strengthen your muscles so they can better support your joints. Range of Motion exercises are a must to help to keep your muscles flexible and joints moving freely.
An occupational therapist can help you keep your independence and show you how to make your life easier. They will introduce arthritis aids such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and resting/working splints used to help prevent joint deformity. Items such as a raised toilet seat, reacher aids, clothing with snaps and velcro, a dressing stick, and a long handled shoehorn are just a few of the aids that can help someone with RA.
There may come a time when a joint is so damaged it needs to be replaced. Your rheumatologist will then send you to an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in muscle, ligament, bone, tendon, joint and nerve damage. The surgeon will assess the damage and schedule the operation date. Surgery times vary depending on which joint replacement is being replaced. After surgery you will remain in the hospital for 3-7 days to rest, receive physiotherapy for your new joint and occupational therapy to learn how to protect your new joint replacement and your other joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis may shorten a person's life span 5-10 years depending on the severity of the disease. However with proper medical treatment, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, emotional and mental support you can live a fairly healthy and happy life.