Tuesday, June 19, 2018 by Zoey Sky
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints. While RA can affect any joint, it is common in the wrist and fingers.
More women develop RA compared to men, and the disorder will often start in middle age. RA is more common among the elderly, and the disorder can be short-lived. However, the severe form of RA can last a lifetime.
Rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis, the common form of arthritis that is linked to older age. Since RA is an autoimmune disorder, arthritis that affects patients occurs when their immune system attacks their body’s own tissues.
Known symptoms, risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis
While rheumatoid arthritis usually has various symptoms, they always affect a patient’s joints. RA affects the ankles, elbows, feet, the joints of the hands (e.g. the knuckle joints), knees, and the wrists.
The larger joints, like the hips, jaw, and shoulders, can also be affected. The vertebrae of the neck may be involved in patients who have had RA for several years.
The usual joint symptoms of RA may include:
- Inflammation – Red, tender, and warm joints are the symptoms of inflammation.
- Nodules – Nodules are hard bumps that appear on or near the joints.
- Pain – Pain linked to RA may come from several sources like the inflammation or swelling of the joint and surrounding tissues. Pain intensity will vary per individual.
- Stiffness – The joint doesn’t move as well as it used to.
- Swelling – The area around the affected joint will be swollen and puffy.
The general signs of RA may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Malaise/a general feeling of discomfort
- Myalgia/muscle ache
- Weakness or loss of energy
- Weight loss
The following conditions imply that rheumatoid arthritis is quiet, or “in remission:”
- Morning stiffness lasts less than 15 minutes
- No fatigue
- No joint pain
- No joint tenderness/pain with motion
- No soft-tissue swelling
The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown. However, risk factors for the disorder may include:
- Infection by a bacterium or virus
- Periodontal/gum disease
- Silica exposure
- Smoking tobacco smoking
Body systems harmed by rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis may cause the following complications:
- Employment – Having Ra can make work difficult. As the disorder progresses, individuals may find it hard to do “normal” tasks.
- Obesity – Obese patients with RA have a greater chance of developing heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Premature heart disease – People with RA have a high chance of developing other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Food items or nutrients that may prevent rheumatoid arthritis
The following foods or nutrients can help prevent rheumatoid arthritis and address its symptoms:
- Antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E, and selenium) – Antioxidants can help minimize inflammation. Foods rich in antioxidants include artichokes, berries (e.g., blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, and strawberries), dark chocolate, kidney beans, pecans, and spinach.
- Fiber – Fiber-rich foods can help reduce inflammatory responses. Sources include fresh fruit like strawberries, fresh vegetables, and whole grain foods.
- Flavonoids – Flavonoids can also soothe inflammation. Foods that contain flavonoids include berries, broccoli, grapes, green tea, and soy products (e.g., miso and tofu.)
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3s can also help reduce inflammation. Foods rich in omega-3s include chia seeds, fatty fishes (e.g., herring, mackerel, salmon, and tuna), flax seeds, and walnuts.
Treatments, management plans for rheumatoid arthritis
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis and treatment aims to slow or halt the progression of the condition. Treatment options include medications and lifestyle changes.
These lifestyle changes can help patients manage RA:
- Exercise regularly – Stay physically active for at least 150 minutes per week. Try cycling, swimming, or walking for 30 minutes every day for five days a week.
- Join effective physical activity programs – These programs can help you determine the right way to exercise. Physical activity programs can also help manage the pain and disability related to RA.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Obesity can complicate RA so try to maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking – Smoking will make your condition worse and it can even cause other health problems.
Where to learn more
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints.
The general symptoms of RA may include fatigue, fever, and weakness.
Rheumatoid arthritis may cause complications like premature heart disease.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment aims to slow or halt the progression of the condition.