Do you experience stiffness and swelling in your joints and are unsure of what’s causing it? Have you been taking collagen and/or glucosamine supplements and find them ineffective in helping to relieve your symptoms?
If you’re feeling these symptoms along with tiredness, flu-like symptoms and a loss of appetite, you may have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which differs from the more common joint condition osteoarthritis (OA) and requires its own set of treatments.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints. It causes joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Because the body’s immune system is attacking its own body tissues, RA sufferers tend to experience flu-like symptoms like fever and fatigue.
Who Gets RA?
Unfortunately, RA can affect anyone at any age. However, it most commonly affects middle-aged women and gets more common in older people. If you suspect that yourself or a loved one may have RA, you should see a rheumatologist for a proper diagnosis. An early diagnosis helps with management and treatment of RA.
How is RA treated?
RA is usually treated using a combination of medication, therapy and sometimes surgery, depending on what is recommended by the doctor.
- Medications: The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS, steroids) which help to relieve pain and reduce swelling. In more severe cases, doctors may prescribe disease-modifying anti rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that target the immune system and tissues more acutely. Always find out from your doctor what side-effects/risks the medications may carry.
- Therapy: A physical or occupational therapist would be able to help you rehabilitate your joint movement and/or teach you modified ways to complete daily tasks which are made difficult due to RA. They may also suggest assistive devices to aid in your daily tasks.
- Surgery: Your doctor may recommend surgery to repair/replace affected joints if medication and therapy do not sufficiently aid in managing your RA. As with medication, weigh the benefits and risks of surgery before making a final decision.
Living with RA
RA-sufferers should try to maintain a balanced diet and lead as active a lifestyle as possible. This helps to promote joint health and helps to slow the progress of RA. Smokers and drinkers should try to quit smoking and alcohol consumption, as both affect joint health. You can also consider assistive devices such as cutlery grips, hand reachers and door grips to help you with daily activities.