You may be able to relieve your RA symptoms and control the disease with medicine, exercise, and lifestyle changes. To find out more about how to treat your rheumatoid arthritis, read on!
What does the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis feel like?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease that affects joints. For many people with RA, it starts in the small joints of the hands and feet before spreading to other areas of the body. You might experience some pain or stiffness in these joints and feel tired more often than usual. You may also have fever, weight loss, and morning joint stiffness that may last for up to two hours early in the day. Fortunately, there are treatments to help manage your RA symptoms.
What is the primary treatment for rheumatoid arthritis?
The first step in managing RA is to take medications. However, you can also relieve your symptoms with self-care and incorporate lifestyle changes into your daily routine. These include staying physically active and eating a healthy diet.
What Causes RA?
RA causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissue in the joints. In people with RA, the immune system mistakenly attacks joints instead of fighting off foreign bacteria, viruses, or other harmful substances that may enter the body. This causes inflammation in the joints and can cause pain and swelling over time. For many people, RA can affect other parts of the body, including your eyes, kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, skin, blood vessels, or nervous system.
What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If you have RA and are experiencing joint pain and inflammation in one or more joints in your fingers or hands, knees or feet that has lasted for more than six weeks you may be diagnosed with this type of arthritis. Other possible symptoms include:
- Pain that lasts for longer periods of time over time and “comes and goes” (flares)
- Muscle aches or stiffness in your neck or other areas of your body that occurs without an injury.
- Feeling tired or weak
- Weight loss.
- Morning stiffness that lasts for more than an hour. This may be especially noticeable in the morning when you first get out of bed. It usually improves after a few minutes, but you may also have symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and swelling at night or whenever your joints are resting for long periods of time.
- Joint “warmth” (usually when they aren’t being used) and skin changes (such as redness) over the affected joint as compared to other areas of your body that are not swollen. However, these symptoms do not mean you definitely have RA if they occur alone with no other signs or symptoms of RA.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If you think you have RA, the first step in your treatment will likely be a visit to your primary care doctor. Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. He or she may also ask about any symptoms you may be experiencing. The doctor will also examine your joints for redness and swelling, gently move them to see if they hurt, and check for tenderness. Based on these findings, your doctor may perform blood tests or other imaging tests to help determine if you have RA.
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated?
Your doctor will likely start you on medications right away. These include NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen), which can reduce pain and inflammation and help you feel better. Your doctor may also prescribe disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate or newer biologic DMARDs to help ease your RA symptoms. However, it is important to take these medicines exactly as directed to avoid potentially serious side effects. Many people with RA also take corticosteroids, such as prednisone, which can reduce swelling and pain in your joints.
Can you do physical work with rheumatoid arthritis?
It’s important to stay as physically active as you can, even if you aren’t able to do things that you were doing before you developed RA. Exercise, such as swimming or walking, can help strengthen your muscles and boost your mood. You may find it helpful to speak to a physical therapist or occupational therapist about exercises that will be safe for your joints.
Over time, your RA symptoms may get worse. However, there are several ways that can help stop this from happening. For example, many people with RA are able to take less or no corticosteroids if they participate in cardiac rehabilitation programs or follow specific diets with proper nutrition while taking DMARDs and other medications.
How does smoking affect rheumatoid arthritis?
Don’t smoke. Smoking, even secondhand smoke, can aggravate your RA symptoms and stop DMARDs from working as well as they can. Ask your doctor about types of smoking-cessation medications that are safe for you to take. If you don’t smoke, don’t start because you have RA.
Do you need to rest with rheumatoid arthritis?
You may not feel like doing much when you have RA, but staying active will help keep the disease from getting worse and may even improve your joint pain and function. Talk to your doctor about what types of activities are safe for you to do. It’s very important to get enough rest and sleep at night.
Learn more about Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment and the things you can do at home to relieve your symptoms and help control the disease