Rheumatoid Arthritis – What You Need to Know

Posted on December 5, 2019

According to the Arthritis Foundation of Florida, there are over 4 million Floridians living with arthritis. Arthritis is a painful, inflammatory joint condition that comes in many forms. Rheumatoid arthritis, in particular, is a type of arthritis that is actually an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders occur when, for often unknown reasons, your body’s immune system begins to attack your own healthy tissues. 

Usually, your immune system only attacks foreign invaders, like viruses and other illness-causing germs. In rheumatoid arthritis, the tissue inside of your joints thickens and swells in response to inflammation from the immune system attack. Without treatment, this inflammation can damage your joints and bones. Rheumatoid arthritis can also impact your blood vessels, lungs, and even vision. The sooner that you can begin treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, the healthier your body will be and the better you will feel. 

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis often starts out as simply joint pain, but it eventually leads to more symptoms, such as:

  • Morning stiffness that lasts for at least half an hour
  • Joint swelling, nodules, pain, and tenderness that affects multiple joints, including your smaller joints (like your wrists). These symptoms may come and go.
  • Non-pain related symptoms, such as a low-grade fever or feeling overly tired
  • Flare-ups, or periods of particularly high inflammation, that causes increased stiffness and additional symptoms. These symptoms can last for days, weeks, or even months at a time. 

It’s important to realize that rheumatoid arthritis is a whole body disease. Since the periods of inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis negatively affect other organs and systems within your body, proper monitoring by your Riverside Pain physician is crucial. 

What Is the Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Along with a physical examination, your doctor may use special laboratory tests to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. Once diagnosed, it’s essential to treat rheumatoid arthritis immediately and as tightly as possible. You want to minimize damage and prevent any potential complications. Treating RA leads to periods of remission, which is the goal of treatment. During remission, symptoms of inflammation are mild or absent. This helps protect the body from the damage that long-term inflammation and flare-ups can cause. 

Physicians can treat rheumatoid arthritis using a variety of medications, including injections and creams. However, there are also lifestyle strategies that can help with RA, including:

  • Physical therapy and individualized exercise 
  • Keeping a journal of what seems to trigger your flare-ups, such as stress. Share your findings with your doctor.
  • The use of hot and cold therapies, including warm baths and cold packs. Your doctor can help you plan for the best use of hot and cold therapies. 
  • Other natural remedies, after consulting with your physician. Some people choose to take supplements that are associated with reduced inflammation (like turmeric). Acupuncture, massage, and even meditation can also be beneficial for pain relief or relaxation during flare-ups. 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that can have a profound effect on your emotions. Mental health conditions, such as depression, are common in people with rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions can make the symptoms of RA worse. When managing the physical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to manage any emotional symptoms, as well. 

You can use this tool to find arthritis support groups in the Jacksonville area. Joining a support group can be extremely beneficial. Your doctor might also know of other support groups for rheumatoid arthritis. 

Riverside Pain Physicians can help you manage your pain from rheumatoid arthritis. We have several locations available in Jacksonville to serve you. Talk with your rheumatologist about a referral today or contact our office for more information.

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