Thursday, May 23, 2024

Does Stress Cause Rheumatoid Arthritis To Flare Up

Stress Does Cause Ra Flares

Rheumatoid Arthritis Flares: What Triggers a RA Flare? | Johns Hopkins Medicine

And in more than one way. Stress is involved in increasing some of the inflammatory mediatorsthe big proinflammatory cytokines like IL1, IL6, and TNFthat also exacerbate joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness, says Dr. Askanase. The autonomic nervous system, which regulates our stress response, also plays a role. Its in a state of hypervigilance, and thats partly responsible for arthritis pain. Plus, stress affects our perception of pain, and thats powerful. Stress exhausts your coping mechanisms, so pain that you may have been able to tune out before may become more relevant, explains Dr. Askanase.

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Stress Increases Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Stress and the feelings of being overwhelmed affect us all. And while you may try to kid yourself into thinking youre not stressed, your body will show physical symptoms linked to the biological changes that occur.

The list includes headaches, low energy, and reduced immune systems. Tellingly, stress triggers the release of chemicals that cause your heart rate to increase and muscles to tense up. This can cause fatigue, which leads to muscle pains. Worse still, the reduced inflammation defense mechanisms will allow joint damage to worsen.

Stress hormones and increased inflammation of muscles and joints affect rheumatoid arthritis , lupus, psoriatic arthritis , and ankylosing spondylitis . It is, therefore, one of the most common triggers as well as one of the most powerful when it strikes.

What Are The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone differently. In some people, joint symptoms develop over several years. In other people, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms progress rapidly. Many people have time with symptoms and then time with no symptoms .

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness in more than one joint.
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning or after sitting for long periods.
  • Pain and stiffness in the same joints on both sides of your body.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis And Older Adults

Rheumatoid arthritis is usually diagnosed in middle-aged adults, but it creates some unique challenges for seniors. Older adults can be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis later in life, and those who have had the disease for many years can continue to struggle with symptoms as they age. Rheumatoid arthritis is progressive. As you get older, the wear and tear on your joints may have become significant. It also can be incredibly difficult to deal with if youre facing the normal signs of aging. You may find it harder to stay active as you age, which can make symptoms worse. Keeping up with medication management and treatments can be challenging for older adults as well. Because rheumatoid arthritis can be so painful and difficult for seniors, you should do everything in your power to keep the symptoms under control. This means visiting your doctor regularly, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and managing your stress.

How To Regain Control Of Stress & Ra


Stress is an everyday occurrence that cannot be avoided completely. The hectic nature of juggling your health, family, career, and lifestyle will probably result in some stressful moments on a daily basis. The best you can do is reduce the frequency.

A healthier lifestyle should be the top item on the agenda. A little light daily exercise combined with good eating habits, hydration, and regular breaks throughout the day will serve you well. Speaking to a therapist about cognitive-behavioral therapy may help you accept RA and reduce its control over your life.

Perhaps the most significant step, though, is to follow the treatments and medications prescribed by medical experts. This can reduce the frequency and strength of flare-ups while additionally supporting better symptom management.

For further support on understanding your symptoms and how to reduce their impact on your life, call Rheumatology Care of North Houston at to arrange a consultation.

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What Does An Ra Flare Feel Like

Someone with RA may usually be able to do household chores, but a flare can interfere with their ability to perform these tasks. Even simple things like using the bathroom and combing one’s hair can become extremely difficult and tiring to complete. Some people have said that their joint stiffness was so severe that it felt like their limbs were stuck together with superglue.

Those experiencing a flare are likely feeling symptoms from head to toe. Fatigue can be debilitating, so much so that people experiencing an RA flare don’t feel refreshed even if they sleep for long periods of time. It may also keep someone in bed for hours or days.

The symptoms of an RA flare can be so bad that a person experiencing one feels like their thoughts are all scattered and will hide away from others. They can also result in significant distress, including tearfulness, irritability, and frustration, and lead to depression, which can lead to suicide ideation.

Does Stress Cause Young People With Arthritis To Suffer Flare

Research has begun into looking at whether psychological stress can lead to young people with arthritis suffering flare-ups.

The study, led by BRC-supported Dr John Ioannou, will hopefully lead to a better understanding of a theory held by some doctors that when young people with juvenile idiopathic arthritis suffer stress it can cause their condition to suddenly worsen.

Patients between 13-18 will complete a questionnaire which assesses their mood, well-being, anxiety and depression levels when they attend appointments at the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Adolescent Rheumatology, a collaboration between UCL, University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital which seeks to understand why rheumatic diseases can be more severe in teenagers.

The patients will also be asked if they have noticed that stress is a trigger for flare-ups and how they manage with this.

There will be a matching questionnaire pack for parents to find out about their childs mood recently and if they are experiencing any stress as a parent.

During the first phase of the trial, 122 people have been recruited and 77 blood samples have been taken. The samples are studied in a laboratory to look at how the immune system changes in response to stress. The team plan to speak to the young people on a six-monthly basis to monitor their overall well-being and inflammatory markers.

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Diagnosis And Treatment For Arthritis Flares

If you think youre going through a flare that hasnt improved after a couple of days, call your rheumatologist or primary care doctor. They will want to monitor how you feel and may want to order imaging and blood tests to see whats going on. They can also prescribe medications to get the flare under control.

How Long A Flare Lasts

Flares, fatigue and pain in rheumatoid arthritis

The length of a flare varies, and can be different for different people. Some may experience it for a year, months, or days. A flare can last as long as there isnt a change in treatment. In one study, flares lasted longer than two weeks in 30% of participants, one to two weeks in 13%, and less than one week in 57%. Longer duration of a flare was associated with changes in disease-modifying therapy.

Its essential to work with your healthcare provider to monitor your symptoms and tweak your treatment plan accordingly when you experience RA flares.

Patients with RA experience flares more often when noted to be in higher disease activity states than when in remission.

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Keep Taking Your Medications

The Covid pandemic has brought unexpected challenges for patients who manage an autoimmune illness.

Some common RA drugs work by suppressing the immune system, prompting some patients to worry about how taking them might impact their health during the pandemic. According to Dr. Baker, studies have been published this year indicating theres an uptick in RA patients discontinuing their medication without talking with their healthcare provider first, and hes seeing it firsthand.

Some people have stopped their medicine throughout this time, either because theyre worried about getting COVID, or because its harder to get their medicine, says Dr. Baker. The doctor cautions his patients against discontinuing medication now, because theres a real risk to stopping, and the benefit of stopping is unclear.

What that means is that, even though some types of RA medications can suppress the immune system, theres no evidence to suggest that continuing to take them can make a patient more likely to contract COVID, or have a worse outcome from the disease. However, there is evidence that stopping treatment can negatively impact your health.

Another potential risk of tapering off medication, even if youve been feeling well: If anything changes, it may be difficult to reverse course. Its just harder to get access to your doctor, and its harder to come in to get your joints evaluated, so Ive been avoiding rocking the boat right now, says Dr. Baker.

What Is The Safest Drug For Rheumatoid Arthritis

The safest drug for rheumatoid arthritis is one that gives you the most benefit with the least amount of negative side effects. This varies depending on your health history and the severity of your RA symptoms. Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop a treatment program. The drugs your healthcare provider prescribes will match the seriousness of your condition.

Its important to meet with your healthcare provider regularly. Theyll watch for any side effects and change your treatment, if necessary. Your healthcare provider may order tests to determine how effective your treatment is and if you have any side effects.

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How Stress And Arthritis Affect Each Other

Stress affects your illness in two major ways, according to a meta-analysis of 10 studies on the relationship between stress and arthritis, published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy. Stressful events work on a physical level, increasing levels of the hormone cortisol in your body. This then triggers the immune system hyperactivity that is the hallmark of inflammatory types of arthritis while also reducing your immune systems ability to fight off harmful germs. Stress also affects you on a mental level, making you less resilient and able to deal with the symptoms of your disease. When our patients say that stress worsens their disease, they may be correct, the researchers concluded.

Fortunately, you can manage this vicious cycle of stress and its impact on managing arthritis. Here are some tips from Dr. Larsen and from fellow arthritis patients on how they cope with stress to minimize its impact on their arthritis.

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Definition And Measurement Of Stress

Tips to Ease RA Flare

The stress response system is made up of psychological, affective and neuroendocrine components that can be activated by a range of physical and psychosocial stressors. A stressor is any event that activates the stress response system, which, in turn, attempts to return the organism to a homeostatic state . Often, biological approaches focus solely on physiological aspects of the stress response, and the type of stressor is incidental to the model except when they differ in intensity of the elicited response . Nonetheless, a number of investigations have examined the effects of psychosocial stressors on RA . The concept of stress is pivotal in RA as living with a painful, chronic and somewhat unpredictable disease can be a significant source of stress in itself . This further complicates the task of distinguishing and measuring different dimensions of stress, and determining whether stressors are disease related . Researchers have taken different conceptual and measurement approaches when investigating the role of psychosocial stressors in RA disease activity, and adjustment outcomes. Psychosocial stressors may vary along a number of important dimensions, such as major or minor events, acute or chronic, anticipated or not, single or multiple events, sudden or gradual onset, and interpersonal, to name but a few . We will discuss briefly examples of stressors most commonly used in RA research.

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When To Seek Help

If youre able to manage your RA with medications and lifestyle choices, you may only need to see your doctor for regular checkups. If your symptoms change or if flare-ups are becoming more frequent or more severe, see your doctor soon. Dont wait months for your next appointment.

Keep your doctor informed about your health. If youve started taking a new medication and suspect its interfering with your sleep, for example, tell your doctor. Your doctor may be able to recommend changes to your routine or healthcare plan that can have positive impacts on your health and the management of your RA.

  • Try to avoid situations you know create stress.
  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Add regular exercise to your routine.
  • Set aside time for activities you enjoy and find relaxing.
  • Dont bottle up your feelings. Be open about things that are bothering you or causing you stress.
  • Work with a therapist if you are unable to manage stress on your own.
  • Stress is a physical and psychological reaction to stimuli. Everyone experiences some stress at times. The burst of hormones produced when youre confronted with a threat triggers the fight-or-flight response. A little stress is part of a normal, healthy life. But too much stress or an inability to handle stress can be harmful.

    Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Fatigue

    Everyones experience of rheumatoid arthritis is a little different. But many people with RA say that fatigue is among the worst symptoms of the disease.

    Living with chronic pain can be exhausting. And fatigue can make it more difficult to manage your pain. Its important to pay attention to your body and take breaks before you get too tired.

    What are rheumatoid arthritis flare symptoms?

    The symptoms of a rheumatoid arthritis flare arent much different from the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. But people with RA have ups and downs. A flare is a time when you have significant symptoms after feeling better for a while. With treatment, youll likely have periods of time when you feel better. Then, stress, changes in weather, certain foods or infections trigger a period of increased disease activity.

    Although you cant prevent flares altogether, there are steps you can take to help you manage them. It might help to write your symptoms down every day in a journal, along with whats going on in your life. Share this journal with your rheumatologist, who may help you identify triggers. Then you can work to manage those triggers.

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    The Relationship Between Psychosocial Variables And Neuroendocrine And Immune Mechanisms In Ra

    Research clearly demonstrates links between psychosocial functioning and disease activity, and associated pain and disability in RA . Further, exacerbations and overall outcomes in RA incorporate complex interactions between psychosocial and disease-related variables . Personality, psychological stressors, threat appraisals of RA, perceived ability to cope with RA and associated pain and disability, coping strategies, and social support have been shown to be related to pain levels, disability and RA disease activity . Further, research indicates that psychosocial factors may act upon RA disease activity and associated physical adjustment through neuroendocrine and immune mechanism modulation .

    Previous research indicates that psychosocial variables have complex relationships with both neuroendocrine and immune processes . However, there is a paucity of research that has examined the interrelationships between psychosocial, neuroendocrine and immune variables, and their contribution to susceptibility and exacerbation of illness, including RA. Nonetheless, findings to date suggest that psychosocial variables, such as psychological stress , appraisals , depression , beliefs in coping abilities and social support may contribute to illness by disrupting stress system hormone release, which in turn affects immune mechanisms on bodily processes, including susceptibility to and exacerbation of illnesses such as RA .

    Can Stress Cause Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Stress and the Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Stress can worsen an existing case of rheumatoid arthritis, but it may also trigger the onset of the illness. Many people report going through a stressful or traumatic event shortly before their rheumatoid arthritis symptoms developed. Theres also a correlation between childhood trauma and rheumatoid arthritis later in life. Older adults are susceptible to a number of different stressors, so stress may play a role in the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in seniors. A serious fall, the loss of a spouse, and a change in living situation are just a few of the many stressful life changes older adults go through. Any one of these stressors could trigger an autoimmune issue.

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    High Alert What The Stress Response Feels Like

    Anybody whos experienced an acute bout of stress , knows what comes next: With the aid of hormones from the adrenal glands , the autonomic nervous system immediately makes the heart beat faster, the pulse quicken, the blood pressure increase, the energy level rise, and the senses and alertness sharpen.

    Hormone Havoc Triggers Symptoms

    The hypothalamus also activates a second part of the stress response system, using the hormonal signals of the HPA axis, especially corticotropin-releasing hormone , which causes the body to increase its level of what we call the stress hormone: cortisol.

    Cortisol is the most famous hormone in our bodily response to stress, and with good reason. Cortisol turns on and turns off various reactions in our body. For instance, it tamps down the digestive and reproductive systems while boosting glucose in our blood.

    Cortisol also alters the response of our immune system, emphasizing substances that repair tissue over other immune reactions.

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    How Stress Affects Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that over 1.3 million Americans currently live with. If you are one of them, gaining a deeper understanding of the autoimmune disease is essential. The role that stress can play in affecting symptoms should be at the top of your agenda.

    Knowledge is power and will support your bid to build a better lifestyle when living with rheumatoid arthritis. Heres what you need to know about stress and what it can do to your physical and mental wellbeing when living with a chronic health complaint.

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