13 Things to Know For Someone Suffering From Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?(1, 2, 3)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which develops when body’s immune system attacks your joints thinking it to be a foreign object. Rheumatoid arthritis produces the following symptoms which make it difficult to perform daily activities: redness/discoloration; pain and inflammation.

It is important that rheumatoid arthritis is treated on time so that symptoms are managed and do not worsen further. Treatment done in time for RA also helps in protection of organs and joints from any lasting injuries.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex disease, but still there are some things that can be done for managing the different facets of this disease to improve the patient’s quality of life.

13 Things to Know For Someone Suffering From Rheumatoid Arthritis(3, 4, 7)

  1. Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Be Subtle In The Initial Stages and Worsen Overtime

    The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is the underlying inflammation that affects a person’s emotional and physical health by causing: fatigue, pain and stiffness. Other friends and family members of the patient may not be aware of their loved one suffering from RA and it is important to explain about this disease to them, as it may not be obvious in its early stages. Once your loved ones know about your condition, then they can better be able to support you in dealing with rheumatoid arthritis.

  2. A Patient Suffering From Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Also Have Lupus at the Same Time(5, 6)

    Lupus is also an autoimmune disease and both rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can occur together and result in an overlap syndrome. Both these autoimmune diseases have similar symptoms when it comes to the joints; however, additional symptoms caused by lupus are: Kidney problems; skin ulcers/rashes; decreased platelets and blood cells.
    The treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are similar as both these diseases are inflammation-based. However, there is likelihood for worsening of lupus symptoms and improvement in the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. For this reason, it is important to follow up with regular appointments and checkups with your doctor as lupus can be tougher to diagnose.

  3. Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Affect In A Different Manner For Different Ages(12)

    A research done in 2017 has revealed that while rheumatoid arthritis is commonly seen in females of ages from 25 to 45, but this disease can develop in males and females from all ages too.

    The primary symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation and pain in the joints, but there can occur different degrees of worsening of this disease as one gets older, for example the changes in the symptoms are more prominent if the patient was initially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 20s or 30s.

    People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis as they grow older can find it difficult to:

    • Complete daily tasks which they used to before, because of fatigue.
    • They need more sleep and tend to go to bed earlier than the normal time.
    • The patient experiences frequent and worsening forgetfulness.
    • The patient needs increased rest after spending a hectic day.
    • There is unintentional weight loss when suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  4. Exercise Helps Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain(8, 9)

    Exercising regularly helps in bettering overall well-being and health; however, RA patients can find it difficult to start an exercise program when they are suffering from pain from rheumatoid arthritis.

    Consult your doctor with regards to exercising with rheumatoid arthritis and start gradually by walking every day, and slowly increase the speed and distance. Flexibility and resistance exercises, such as tai chi and yoga also benefit by reducing the pain from rheumatoid arthritis and also increase mobility.

  5. Along With Rheumatoid Arthritis, One Can Also Have Fibromyalgia(10, 11)

    Both rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia have similar symptoms, such as including pain and fatigue. However, rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation and joint pain and treatment can be done with various classes of medications.

    On the other hand, the pain from fibromyalgia can be constant. Other than this, rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive autoimmune disease, whereas fibromyalgia is a long-term or chronic disease which need not worsen over time.

    When a person is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, then the risk of developing fibromyalgia increases too. Experts say that more than 20 to 30 percent of patients suffer from fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis together.

    Some of the other symptoms of fibromyalgia are: Anxiety/depression; headaches; irritable bowel syndrome; insomnia, fatigue and sensitivity to changes in light, sound and temperature.

    Fibromyalgia has no cure and its symptoms can be managed by: controlling stress; good diet; getting sufficient sleep; and meditation for relaxation.

  6. Do Not Hesitate To Seek Help for Your Mental Health When Suffering From Rheumatoid Arthritis(13)

    Feeling stressed occasionally due to rheumatoid arthritis is understandable, however, if you are experiencing constant stressed out emotions, which indicate that your mental health is suffering then seek help ASAP. Given below are some experiences that are a sign of having problems with your mental health condition: Constant fear, anger, sadness, worry, moodiness and hopelessness.

    If you feel worse than usual and have lost interest in activities that you enjoyed previously, then talk to a mental health professional for treatment and guidance.

  7. Along With Exercise, It Is Important To Rest Properly When Suffering From Rheumatoid Arthritis(14)

    The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says that while regular exercise helps in managing the RA pain, but when one is suffering from flare ups, then it is important to rest more. Excessive exercise, especially during flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis, can cause increase in inflammation and hence worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Resting on time helps the body to recover and reduce fatigue. Listen to what your body says and if you feel too tired, then it is important to skip exercise and rest that day or do gentle yoga stretches instead especially if you feel stiff and tired.

  8. The ‘Brain Fog’ and Fatigue is Real and So is its Management(15, 16)

    One of the common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is fatigue and it can also be a sign of a new flare-up.

    When suffering from fatigue due to rheumatoid arthritis, one can also experience exhaustion and weakness in the day time; however, one need not necessarily feel sleepy. Too much fatigue makes it difficult to recall information or concentrate on anything, which are two symptoms of what is known as “brain fog.”

    Treatment helps in reducing rheumatoid arthritis fatigue. Brain fog and fatigue from rheumatoid arthritis can be managed by:

    • Regular exercise during the day.
    • Following a regular sleep schedule at night.
    • Consuming a healthy and balanced diet.
  9. Stress Management Is Important When Suffering From Rheumatoid Arthritis(17, 18)

    Stress increases the risk of developing a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis, and it can also aggravate other coexisting conditions, such as fibromyalgia.

    Regular relaxation techniques along with exercise help in keeping the stress at bay and also reduce inflammation. Some of the things one can do to combat stress are: Meditate, go for a walk; engage yourself in a hobby, listen to music; watch your favorite movie and talk with your friends and family.

  10. Group Support Helps a Lot When Suffering From Rheumatoid Arthritis(1)

    Other than your friends and family, support from people who are going through the same thing as you are helps a lot in dealing with rheumatoid arthritis.

    Joining a rheumatoid arthritis support group, whether in person or online, helps a lot by talking and sharing similar experiences from the same disease; and helps a lot with mental health, as it makes the patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis feel less isolated.

  11. Protecting Your Heart Health is Important When Suffering From Rheumatoid Arthritis(19, 20)

    The inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can spread to your vital organs, such as lungs and heart. It is important to evaluate your internal organs on a regular basis as a part of rheumatoid arthritis management.

    Heart disease is said to be the leading cause of death in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Things that one can do to decrease the risk of heart disease when suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are:

    • Keeping your cholesterol levels in check.
    • Keeping your blood pressure in control.
    • Quitting smoking.
    • Doing cardiovascular exercises.
    • Following a low fat diet.
  12. Controlling Weight Helps in Preventing Progression of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Also Reduces Symptoms(21, 22)

    According to experts, being overweight can increase the risk of worsening of rheumatoid arthritis. In such cases, weight reduction helps in alleviating the symptoms and in slowing the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. Weight loss also helps in decreasing pain in joints, such as: knees, hips, and back.

    Consult your doctor about a gradual weight loss program to help with your rheumatoid arthritis.

  13. The Silver Lining: Remission from Rheumatoid Arthritis Is a Possibility(23, 24)

    The main aim of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is to ease the symptoms along with halting the disease progression. For this, it is important for early diagnosis and treatment of rheumatoid arthritis using disease-modifying medications, which can lead to remission. Remission in fact can be possible in the initial few months of the treatment itself.

    You are in remission from rheumatoid arthritis when you have lesser inflammation and pain, which means that fewer joints are affected. Your condition should be monitored by your doctor and the medicines need to be adjusted accordingly.

When Should You Consult Your Doctor?(1)

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis consists of disease-modifying medications; however, these medicines do need dose adjustments according to the varying degrees of the disease.

It is important to monitor the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and in case of any new flare-ups, consult your doctor immediately to adjust your dosage if needed.

You should also consult your doctor if there is no improvement in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis despite taking medications. If there is any worsening of pain or change in the quality of life, then also you should seek immediate medical attention.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-Up?(1)

Some of the common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis flare-up are:

  • Visible discoloration or redness on the affected joints.
  • Increased stiffness and pain in the joints.
  • Not being able to finish your daily chores.
  • Excessive fatigue after completing any regular activity.
  • Increased stress levels.

Conclusion

While joint stiffness and pain is the characterizing feature of rheumatoid arthritis, it will serve you well to remember that there are other symptoms of this disease too. Along with your joints, rheumatoid arthritis also affects your heart health, mental health and energy levels.

Along with medications to manage and prevent progression of rheumatoid arthritis, it is also important to incorporate better lifestyle changes to complement the RA treatment for better outcome.

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