Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder which mainly affects joints. It occurs when the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. This disease distresses the covering of body joints and causes pain in different parts of the body.
What does RA feel like?
Though RA usually affects the hands and feet, bigger joints like the elbows and knees may also be affected. RA can produce many other symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and joint stiffness.
Pain in the joints
RA usually appears slowly, distressing small joints first. Then spreading to the larger joints. Generally, the pain occurs on both sides of the body.
Symmetric pain occurring in multiple joints makes RA different from other arthritis. For instance, you will feel an ache in both right and left wrists, knees, and hands. In RA, joint pain can be from minor to moderate or it can be severe. Occasionally it can feel like a broken bone or sprain. Some of your body areas may even be painful to the touch.
Stiffness in the joints
Rheumatoid arthritis causes stiffness and pain in the affected joints. It can be difficult for you to get out of bed or walk in the morning. It is because of painful and stiff ankles, knees, or feet. The stiffness is generally worse in the mornings. This disease can also generate inflammation in the affected joints. Long-term swelling can make you feel physically tired.
RA can cause low energy, mainly when the pain develops in the way of sleeping. Even after enough sleep, you may still feel fatigued, or tired. Around 80 percent of individuals with this disease say that they feel exhaustion. This number can rise if you have other disorders, like depression, obesity, and headaches. You may feel weary or sick earlier in the day.
Joint pain is the most common indication of RA, but it can also affect lungs. Because long-term swelling can cause scoring in your lungs, which causes chronic dry cough and shortness of breath.
Some people with Rheumatoid arthritis grow lung nodules or abnormal lung tissue (because of inflammation), that can be visualized on X-rays. The nodules are mostly benign. They can vary in size from as small as a pea to as big as a walnut. Usually, they don’t cause any pain.
If RA upsets your skin, you may grow nodules or lumps of tissue beneath the skin. A rash can also be developed due to inflammation around or in the blood vessels. This disease may also cause eye-related complications. Symptoms of eye inflammation comprise;
- dry eyes
- light sensitivity
- blurry vision
Complications and outlook for RA
Long lasting inflammation can also produce an effect on other organs of your body. Almost 40 percent of persons with RA also practice symptoms in other body parts, according to the Mayo Clinic. These parts are;
- nervous system
RA also causes an increase in your risk of developing other diseases or problems. These may cause symptoms which seem distinct to RA, like irregular heartbeats or hearing loss.
RA is a lingering disorder that, if not treated, could probably end in distorted and knotted-looking joints. Small lumps, called as rheumatoid nodules, can grow under the skin at pressure points or areas such as the back of the scalp. This disease also increases the risk of other illnesses, such as;
- lung disease
- heart problems
- peripheral neuropathy
Though RA affects people in a different way, the outlook is usually good — as long as you pursue treatment. Treatment may not relieve 100 percent of inflammation. But it can decrease the severity of symptoms and help you enjoy times of relief.
Treatment for RA
There’s presently no cure for RA, but several treatments can help control its symptoms, limit joint destruction, and facilitate a clinical remission. The early diagnoses of RA can help to get effective treatment. Recent treatments help maximum people with RA continue a healthy, functioning, and active lifestyle.
For mild RA, over-the-counter (OTC) ache relievers or nonsteroidal drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen may provide aid. The doctor will prescribe disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for the prevention of disease progression.
DMARDs can help decrease inflammation and hence reduce pain and swelling. For more severe pain and inflammation, you may require biologic response modifiers. These medicines target particular parts of the immune system and help reduce inflammation and prevent tissue and joint damage.
Your doctor may commend surgery if drugs don’t help. During the surgical measures, a doctor can remove the swollen lining of joints or may repair a tendon injury.
Joint fusion stabilize injured joints and relieve discomfort. Sometimes, the doctor may commend total joint replacement and replace damaged joints with a prosthetic.
Study displays that exercises which include flexibility and firming can help relieve pain and also improve regular working. Adequate exercises like yoga, walking, and swimming can strengthen your joints.
Physical and occupational therapists can help you learn suitable exercises to maintain flexibility in your joints. They also provide tactics to make daily jobs easier and protect your joints.
Alternative therapies don’t cure RA but instead relieve symptoms of pain, fatigue, and more. For instance, fish oil supplements are useful for the reduction of inflammation. Adding some other supplements may also help. These supplements comprise;
- black currant oil
- borage oil
- cat’s claw
- flax seed
A lot of studies has gone into supplements and herbs for RA, but consult your doctor before using any of them. They may intermingle with prescriptions you’re already taking and cause unintentional side effects.
When to see a doctor
Call your doctor if you have distress or inflammation in your joints. He will take a broad history and observe you for signs and symptoms of inflammatory arthritis like stiffness, tenderness, swelling, and pain. The clinician will also look for signs of infection.
There is no single test which decides whether you have RA. Your doctor may run some tests for RA diagnosis. These tests are;
- checking your blood for particular antibodies like rheumatoid factor or anti-CCP (cyclic citrullinated peptide) antibody
- taking samples of synovial fluid to look for infection or inflammation
- looking for inflammation (raised ESR or C reactive protein)
- checking imaging tests to look at your bones and joints or evidence of joint damage or inflammation
Occasionally, X-rays are useless in identifying the disease. An MRI or ultrasound can show aberrations in your joints before X-ray changes appear. Don’t be scared to get a second judgment if you are still experiencing distress from your form. A doctor can recommend new medicines if the ones you are taking are not functioning.
RA frequently appears in persons with ages between 25 and 50. If you aren’t in this range, you should still consult a doctor if you are facing symptoms of RA. In the case of Rheumatoid arthritis, the earlier you get treatment, the better your result is.