Dealing With the Chronic Pain of an Autoimmune Disorder
Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown, there are treatments that may bring relief to those who suffer with this painful disease. This type of arthritis creates swelling in the joint linings and can cause the joints to eventually become deformed. It is more than twice more common among women than men. Most people with rheumatoid arthritis start seeing the symptoms during middle age. Other risk factors include a family history of RA and smoking.
This disease may flare up at any time, with symptoms coming and going in the early stages. Since it is a systemic condition, it may also attack the organs. In order to maintain a normal lifestyle, it is important to have early diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The symptoms may be intermittent during the early stages of this type of arthritis. It often starts in the hands, wrists and feet. As the disease advances, some of the larger joints, such as the knees, hip and shoulders, may suffer. The pain may be mild or excruciating.
Most people with rheumatoid arthritis experience more than one of the many symptoms:
- swelling and pain in the joints
- joint misalignment
- arthritis symptoms in any of the organs
- swollen and red hands
- bumps on the arms, also known as rheumatoid nodules
- stiffness after immobility
- fatigue and fever
- weight loss
The doctor will need to do a series of tests to determine if the problem is the result of rheumatoid arthritis. X-rays, an MRI, a joint ultrasound, a bone density test and blood tests will help in the diagnosis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Since each person with this disease experiences a different combination of symptoms, most medical professionals prefer to treat each person on an individual basis. The more severe and varied the symptoms, the more aggressive the treatment may be. The primary attention will be on reducing fever, inflammation and pain, while attempting to halt the progression of the arthritis.
If someone has rheumatoid arthritis, it’s a good idea to see a rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in this disease. A family doctor will have the names of specialists.
The doctor will likely prescribe drugs to help treat the symptoms rheumatoid arthritis. Some of these may include:
- NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, such as ibuprofen, ASPIRIN®, valdecoxib or celecoxib.
- Analgesics – Drugs such as acetaminophen or propoxyphene may help with the pain, but they may not reduce the inflammation.
- Prednisone – Low doses may help prevent further joint damage from the inflammation.
- Anti-gout medications – Colchicine is usually prescribed for patients who have rheumatoid arthritis and gout flares at the same time.
According to the Arthritis Foundation website, other treatments for rheumatoid arthritis may include disease modifying antirheumatic drugs, biologic response modifiers or protein-A immuoadsorption therapy.
Some people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis may find relief from alternative treatments. Some of these may include:
- tai chi
- stress management
Nutritional supplements may also help, but consult with the doctor because they may interfere with the prescribed medication. People having trouble with mobility may need to use crutches, braces, orthotics or other devices.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a difficult disease to contend with, since there are no known causes. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, the symptoms may subside enough for the sufferers to live a normal life.