What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. It is caused when the immune system erroneously attacks its own body tissues. Like several other autoimmune diseases, RA is more common in women than men. Women are two to three times more likely to have RA than men. In this condition, the immune system attacks the joints. However, it can also affect other body tissues and cause problems in organs, such as the heart, lungs and eyes. The disease can affect many joints in the body at the same time. RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists and knees. In a joint affected by RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, which damages the joint tissue.
What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) particularly affects the small joints in the hands, wrist and feet. RA may also involve the elbows, knees, ankles and other body parts. The joint involvement in RA is symmetric, which means that if the joints in the fingers of your left hand pain, you will experience pain in the fingers of the right hand, too. The common symptoms of RA are
- Warm, swollen and painful joints
- Morning stiffness in joints or stiffness after inactivity
- Joint deformity
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Dryness in eyes
- Dry mouth
- Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale skin
- Chest pain or pressure
The symptoms of RA do not remain the same all the time. There may be exacerbation (flare-ups) and resolution (remissions) from time to time.
Can you live a long life with rheumatoid arthritis?
Yes, you can live a long life with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), although on average the disease has been found to shorten lifespan by a few years. RA does not kill people, but its complications can be fatal. RA raises your risk of having cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death in people with RA). It can also affect your lungs and blood vessels and increase your risk of infections. Although the disease cannot be cured, effective treatment can control the symptoms, reduce the risk of complications and improve quality of life and lifespan. The medications for RA aim at reducing inflammation in the body and achieving remission (low disease activity). Various drugs used for RA aim to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. These drugs are collectively called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or DMARDs. To achieve a longer and better quality of life
- Take your medications as advised by your doctor.
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet.
- Include lots of fiber in the form of vegetables, whole grains and fruits in your diet.
- Limit the intake of processed, fatty and sugary foods.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Avoid smoking.
- Perform enough physical activity as advised by your doctor. Generally, it is advised to perform at least 30 minutes of low- or no-impact aerobic exercises, such as cycling and walking, five days a week. Also, including strengthening exercises (weights, resistance bands, squats, climbing stairs, etc.) in the routine helps strengthen and support the joints. Adding stretching and flexibility exercises helps boost the range of motion and limits stiffness.
- Get enough sleep and rest.
- Maintain personal hygiene.
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Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Rheumatoid Arthritis Signs and Symptoms." https://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/arthritis-info/rheumatoid-arthritis/ra-symptoms/
Arthritis Foundation: "10 Things to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis." https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/more-about/10-things-to-know-about-ra
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