Flare Triggers For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis can go into remission, a period of minimal or no symptoms which can last for months or years. During a flare or exacerbation, current symptoms worsen and new symptoms arise. Some flares have known triggers, while other flares are not obviously caused by any trigger.
Symptoms of a flare can vary, but they usually involve increased pain, joint swelling, and stiffness. Doctors differ in their definitions of what constitutes a flare. Repeated flares may indicate that medication is not working and needs to be changed. Flare triggers seem to increase inflammation and stimulate autoimmune attacks, bringing new or worse RA symptoms.
Flare triggers differ between people with RA, but common triggers include:
- Emotional stress
- Changes in medications
Eat Small Frequent Meals
Large meals stress my body out and make me feel exhausted afterward, Meghan says. Conversely, being super hungry also feels very stressful to her. Her solution? I eat five or six mini meals spread out throughout my day, she explains. A healthy snack of protein and a fresh fruit or vegetable provides consistent energy and helps defuse stress.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Mental Health
Rheumatoid arthritis contributes to stress and affects mental health, especially when its symptoms occur for a longer time. Constant joint pain and poor sleep create a vicious cycle. Each symptom worsens the others and adds to the stress the patient already feels. When a patient feels tired due to stress, they dont feel like exercising. A lack of exercise triggers pain, which makes it harder to sleep. The patient gets anxious about future disability, getting pregnant or handling the financial burden of treatment. These things only add up to more stress.
Around one out of five patients with rheumatoid arthritis has depression due to the illness. Depression, in turn, further aggravates rheumatoid arthritis and leads to a greater number of painful joints, reduced functioning and increased visits to the doctors clinic. All these further affect the patients mental health and cause more stress and depression.
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How Stress Affects Arthritis
Managing a chronic disease affect many aspects of daily living, including emotional health . Heres what to do if youre stressed out.
Stress is a constant presence in our lives. A chronic disease like arthritis, which brings pain, high medical bills, and an uncertain future, ramps up stress levels even more. Being under stress can worsen arthritis symptoms. The best solution is to manage stress before it can undermine disease management and quality of live
How stress contributes to arthritis
Your bodys stress response triggers the release of chemicals that ready you to face the challenge at hand. Your breathing quickens, your heart rate increases, and your muscles tense in preparation. This reaction is fine in the short term, but when it fires repeatedly, the increased tension in your muscles can amplify your arthritis pain. Stress also sets off the immune systems inflammatory response. Inflammation is what fuels joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis , lupus, psoriatic arthritis , ankylosing spondylitis , and other inflammatory forms of the disease. The longer youre exposed to stress, the more destructive the inflammation can become. In a PLoS One study, people with RA identified stress as a trigger for disease flare-ups.
How arthritis worsens stress
Coping with stress
Here are a few tips to help you manage stress:
How Does A Patient Calm Down Rheumatoid Arthritis
Stress can cause rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis itself can also cause stress. Treatments that dont work or their side effects might affect the patients mind. Joint pain and swelling can make routine activities difficult for the patient. All these things that come with rheumatoid arthritis can make the patient stressed, which can further trigger joint inflammation.
The patient can calm down rheumatoid arthritis by following a few steps
- Take pain medications: Analgesics help a lot to relieve joint pain. Take them as scheduled as prescribed by the doctor. Make sure to drink enough water during the day.
- Use a warm or cold compress: Warm packs reduce stiffness and ice packs work on the inflamed joint.
- Go for massage therapy: Getting a massage can ease pain and relieve stress and anxiety.
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Being Overweight Is A Risk Factor
More and more research suggests that carrying too many pounds may increase the risk of RA in those who are genetically susceptible, particularly women. One large comparative study found that obesity accounted for 52% of the reported increase in RA in women from 1985 to 2007. In another study, women whod been obese for 10 years or longer had a 37% increased risk for RA.
Being obese may also lower your chance of achieving sustained remission in RA by 47%, according to research . The reason? Fat cells constantly release proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation, which may aggravate your swollen joints. Plus, these inflammatory cytokines are often already circulating in your body if you have RA adding more to the mix only makes matters more painful.
Hair Loss: Whats Normal Whats Not
You can tell if youre experiencing out-of-the-ordinary hair loss if youre spotting strands of hair in places you normally wouldnt.
When Im asking about hair loss that might be pathologic, I say, When you wake up in the morning, do you notice hair on your pillow? says Dr. Blazer. We all lose hair in the shower, or when we brush and comb. Its really when youre noticing hair loss where you shouldnt, or patterns of hair loss, like patches.
Consider whether amount of hair youre shedding is more than usual .
If what you are experiencing is strikingly different from your normal, it is worth asking your doctor about it, says Carolyn Goh, MD, a dermatologist at UCLA Health Encino. True patches of hair loss or rashes on the scalp along with the hair loss are often signs of more serious hair loss.
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What Are The Treatments For Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA is usually treated with a combination of medications to relieve swelling and pain while regulating the immune system. Joint surgery to relieve pain and disability, including joint replacement, may also be considered when these nonsurgical methods have failed to provide lasting benefit.
With early detection and intervention, RA and other forms of inflammatory arthritis can be treated very effectively. The connects patients quickly and efficiently with a rheumatologist who can evaluate their joint pain and get each patient started on an appropriate course of treatment. HSS also offers specialized for people with RA.
Today, we are blessed with a deeper understanding of the pathogenesis and characteristics of RA and the availability of safe and effective medications that can alter the natural history of RA and improve function. We start with the premise that RA is eminently controllable, and the goal of our therapies is “no evidence of disease.” That means no signs of redness, warmth, swelling or tenderness and normal function. Since we would not accept uncontrolled illness in angina, chronic obstructive lung disease, hypertension or diabetes, we should similarly not accept it in RA. Luckily, today, we have the therapeutic tools to make this happen.
Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis
There is no cure for RA. But it is important to help keep your joints working well by reducing pain and inflammation. Work on a treatment plan with your healthcare provider that includes medicine and physical therapy. Work on lifestyle changes that can improve your quality of life. Lifestyle changes include:
- Activity and rest. To reduce stress on your joints, switch between activity and rest. This can help protect your joints and lessen your symptoms.
- Using assistive devices. Canes, crutches, and walkers can help to keep stress off certain joints and to improve balance.
- Using adaptive equipment. Reachers and grabbers let you extend your reach and reduce straining. Dressing aids help you get dressed more easily.
- Managing the use of medicines. Medicines for this condition have some risks. Work with your healthcare provider to create a plan to reduce this risk.
- Seeking support. Find a support group that can help you deal with the effects of RA.
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Accept Responsibility For What You *can* Do
With arthritis its easy to focus on everything you cant do. However, recognizing everything you can do to help yourself is very empowering and will reduce the stress of your illness, Dr. Larsen says. Accept responsibility for self-care and realize that there is only so much that a doctor or medicine, or anything outside of you can do, she explains. Yes, that puts a lot of responsibility on you as a person trying to get better, but it also empowers you to rely less on outside forces for your well-being and improve your attitude, which is also important to help you cope and heal.
Implement A Bedtime Routine
Chronic pain and sleeplessness can turn into a vicious cycle fast and nothing is more stressful than insomnia. To make sure she gets enough sleep Meghan has developed a bedtime routine that helps her make sure her body is prepped to fall asleep and stay asleep. What routine works best for you will vary but it may include things like a warm bath, a heating pad, a special pillow set-up, a half-hour of quiet reading, meditation, or whatever else makes you feel calm.
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Do Infections Play A Role In Rheumatoid Arthritis
A number of RA cases begin within a few weeks of a viral or bacterial infection. Thats because when your body senses danger from an infection, it switches on the immune response to fight off the invader. In some people, this immune response may fail to switch off as it should, leading to autoimmune diseases like RA.
Schedule A Nap In Your Calendar
As someone who has lived with chronic illnesses for years, I have learned the hard way that when it comes to coping with stress, there is no substitute for rest, says Monica C., of Phoenix, Arizona. The trick is to actually schedule your rest time, just like you would any other appointment. This way you will be less tempted to push through or forget about it.
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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.
So What Exactly Causes Ra Then
In RA, your immune system mistakenly attacks your bodys own healthy cells from the inside out, inflaming the lining of the membranes that surround your joints . While the synovium of healthy joints is thin and delicate, in joints with RA, the synovium becomes swollen and the synovial cavity, or space between your joints, fills with inflammatory fluid. The result: Pain, swelling, and joint stiffness. In severe cases, RA can even compromise the joint cartilage, leading to the degradation and destruction of cartilage and bone over time.
Its still a mystery why the immune system turns on the bodys own cells, but researchers have a few ideas. Lets take a closer look at things that contribute to the development of RA.
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Get Educated About Your Disease And Treatment
Knowledge is power and feeling powerful automatically reduces stress. Learning the actual facts about my disease really helped me stop freaking out, Mathias says. He did basic research on the internet and brought a list of questions to each doctors appointment. Dont get me wrong, still sucks, but now that I know why I feel the way I do and why my body is acting a certain way, its easier to do what I know Im supposed to be doing, he says.
Your Gender Makes A Difference
Bad news if youre female: Women are three times more likely than men to develop RA, although that number drops to twice as likely if they are diagnosed after age 50. Curiously, after age 75, RA actually becomes more common in men. The reason could be hormonal: Studies have linked low testosterone levels in men with an increased risk of RA, supporting the theory that testosterone may have a protective effect.
In general, all hormones seem to have a protective effect against RA. During pregnancy, when estrogen increases, women with RA may see a reduction or complete remission of RA symptoms. But when hormone levels decrease after giving birth, symptoms typically return. And women who go through early menopause are more likely to develop RA than those who experience normal to late menopause.
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Help Reduce Your Stress
- Exercise. Whether you enroll in a water aerobics class or make walking around the park part of your daily routine, promotes good mental health by curbing stress and anxiety. Gentle exerciseespecially aerobic exerciseis ideal for people with rheumatoid arthritis because it improves mobility and will even help shed a few pounds . Another big benefit: exercise may even have pain killing and mood lifting effect.
- Join a support group. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, or any painful condition, it’s easy to feel alone. Joining a support group will connect you with people who understand the pain and emotions you’re experiencing. The community aspect will also help diminish the sense of isolation that often accompanies pain.
- Relaxation therapy. This therapy aims to calm both the body and mind through making a conscious effort to relax. Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, you might find this technique effective at controlling your response to stress.You might want to begin by focusing on one part of the bodyyour hands, for instance. Concentrate until your hands are entirely free of any stress or tension. Then imagine that weightless feeling flow throughout the rest of your body. You may want to close your eyes, lie down, shut the lights off, or think of a soothing memory. Relaxation doesn’t have strict guidelineswhatever best puts you in a relaxed frame of mind is what you should follow.
Indulge In A Bubble Bath
For some, taking a long, warm bath is a once-in-a-blue-moon luxury but for Mary R., of Westerville, Ohio, they are a non-negotiable way of taking care of her rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic illnesses. I have to have a bubble bath nightly if I want to get a good nights sleep, she says. The warmth helps her pain, increases relaxation, and reduces stress.
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Treatment For Hair Loss
Although hair loss technically doesnt need to be treated, it can have a significant impact on your self-esteem and confidence which is reason enough to address it. Plus, hair loss could be indicative of other issues like mineral deficiencies or unknown illnesses.
Just on its own merits, we dont need to treat hair thinning, but I dont want to underestimate the significance of aesthetics, says Dr. Hamburger. Our patients suffer enough from damage to their joints, swollen joints, and sometimes weight loss or muscle wasting. Theyve got enough going on with their appearance and their self-image, they certainly dont need something as important as hair loss to deal with, too.
Talk to your doctor to find out whether one of the following will help treat your RA-related hair loss.
Recognize The Early Signs
If you have RA and you are worried about your mental health, it is a good idea to bring your concerns to your healthcare provider. They can assess you to determine if you might be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or another condition.
Signs of depression might include:
- Low mood, feelings of sadness, irritability, and anger
- Reduced energy levels
- Becoming easily distracted
- Feeling overconfident
- Engaging in risky behaviors, including gambling away savings, going on big spending sprees, or having impulsive sex
Depression symptoms of bipolar disorder might include:
- Feeling sad or hopeless for extended periods
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Significant appetite changes
- Chronic fatigue and lack of energy
- Constant worry and concentration troubles
- Thoughts of suicide or death
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Does Smoking Cause Ra
One thing scientists are pretty sure of: Tobacco smoking is linked with RA. A large study in Arthritis Care & Research shows that women who smoke are 47% more likely than nonsmokers to develop RA. The exact cause and effect is not well understood, but its possible that toxic chemicals in the smoke may promote the development of harmful antibodies.
The risk for RA increases in people who have smoked 20 years or longer and have a genetic predisposition to the disease, and smokers are more likely to have severe symptoms and greater joint damage. They may also be less likely to experience remission.
The good news? Quitting can help lower your riskand the sooner the better. One study found that people who kicked the habit 30 years ago were 37% less likely to develop RA compared with those who quit in the last five years.