Rheumatoid arthritis relief is possible

rheumatoid arthritis

[© Hriana | Dreamstime.com] RA is chronic autoimmune inflammatory arthritis that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited mobility and function of many joints. If you or your primary care physician suspect RA, you should be evaluated by a rheumatologist to develop an appropriate management plan.

Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis
Could you be one of the more than 1.5 million people in the United States who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?  RA is chronic autoimmune inflammatory arthritis that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited mobility and function of many joints. Typically, RA starts by affecting small joints in the hands and feet but can impact any joint. This systemic illness also can sometimes affect other organs, including the heart, lungs and eyes. Other symptoms may include low-grade fever, firm bumps, loss of energy and loss of appetite.

Approximately 75 percent of those with RA are women, and while the disease is most common between ages 40 to 60, you can be diagnosed at any age. Also, having a family member with RA can increase your likelihood of developing the disease, although you can still suffer from RA without having a family history of the disease.

No one knows what triggers rheumatoid arthritis, and since many diseases may behave like RA, if you or your primary care physician suspect RA, you should be evaluated by a rheumatologist to develop an appropriate management plan. This will help avoid unneeded tests for conditions that can mimic RA symptoms.

What can I do if I have RA?
Although there is not yet a cure for RA, there is a lot of research targeting a cure. Today, medication can dramatically improve or resolve symptoms of stiffness and swelling of joints, putting a patient in remission. In addition to medication, exercise, rest and joint protection are also forms of treatment.

The Arthritis Foundation suggests those with RA remember:
If left untreated, the inflammation caused by RA can result in permanent damage to joints or internal organ

  • The earlier you receive treatment, the better chance of preventing joint damage
  • Remission is possible
  • Your risk for heart disease is increased
  • Exercise helps: aim for at least 30 minutes of low- to no-impact aerobics five days a week and, if possible, include strengthening exercises
  • Stress management and rest are also helpful
  • Maintain open communication with your physician

The Howard County General Hospital Bolduc Family Outpatient Center offers physical therapy and exercise for those diagnosed with RA. For an appointment, call 443-718-3000.

 

Moe Zan, M.D., is a rheumatologist with Arthritis Care Specialists in Ellicott City. Make your appointment by calling 410-992-7440.