Explain The Pain Is It Osteoarthritis Or Rheumatoid Arthritis
If opening jars becomes more difficult because of painful hands, or if climbing stairs produces pain in your knees, âarthritisâ is often the first thing that comes to mind. The two most common forms of arthritisosteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritiscan cause similar aches and pains, but there are a few key differences between them. For example:
Onset. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage wears away. Pain occurs when bone rubs against bone. This type of arthritis pain tends to develop gradually and intermittently over several months or years.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis affecting 27 million Americans. Many people believe itâs a crippling and inevitable part of growing old. But things are changing. Treatments are better, and plenty of people age well without much arthritis. If you have osteoarthritis, you can take steps to protect your joints, reduce discomfort, and improve mobility all of which are detailed in this report. If you donât have osteoarthritis, the report offers strategies for preventing it.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory condition in which your immune system attacks the tissues in your joints. It causes pain and stiffness that worsen over several weeks or a few months. And joint pain isnât always the first sign of rheumatoid arthritissometimes it begins with âflu-likeâ symptoms of fatigue, fever, weakness, and minor joint aches.
Stick To Your Prescribed Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Plan
Medication that helps reduce out-of-control inflammation in the body is a cornerstone of rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and how long youve had rheumatoid arthritis, your rheumatologist may prescribe a combination of medications. One of the major goals of treatment of RA is to prevent this structural damage that can result in loss of dexterity and strength in the hands, says Dr. Lally.
Commonly prescribed medications include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
These medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen or prescription versions, are used for mild joint pain and reduce inflammation but dont prevent disease progression.
These medications, such as prednisone, help reduce inflammation quickly and tend to be prescribed during flares. They used sparingly and carefully in people with RA because they can have a wide range of side effects.
Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs
These medications address the underlying systemic inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. They are critical for slowing and stopping the course of inflammatory disease. They fall into three general categories.
The treatments that we have for RA both the conventional DMARDs such as methotrexate and the biologics and JAK inhibitors can help improve joint pain, swelling, and stiffness while preventing the development of long-term damage, adds Dr. Lally.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation in the affected parts of the body.
RA mainly attacks the joints, usually many joints at once. RA commonly affects joints in the hands, wrists, and knees. In a joint with RA, the lining of the joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness , and deformity .
RA can also affect other tissues throughout the body and cause problems in organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
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Should I Exercise My Hands
Dont be afraid to use your hands. Regular exercise is important in reducing stiffness and keeping your joints and muscles working. Try to make sure you move any affected joints in your fingers, thumbs, knuckles and wrists as far as is comfortable several times a day. You could also see an occupational therapist or physiotherapist for specific hand exercises.
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Both Sides Of The Body Affected
Typically, the distribution of the joints involved in a person with rheumatoid arthritis is similar on both sides of the body. This symmetric joint involvement is a feature of classic rheumatoid arthritis. This does not mean that joint involvement is always symmetric, but it is common.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually involves many joints on both sides of the body. It is, therefore, sometimes referred to as an asymmetric polyarticular form of arthritis.
- Accordingly, the small joints of the hands, wrists, and feet are commonly affected.
- The knees, ankles, shoulders, hips, and elbows can also be involved in early disease.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflammation in these joints.
- Early manifestations of this inflammation can be gradual or rapidly intense.
- The joint inflammation causes stiffness, usually worse in the morning or after being sedentary.
- It also causes warmth, swelling, redness, and pain in varying degrees.
- The joint can be very subtly affected with slight swelling or markedly affected with substantial loss of range of motion.
- The pain level can be completely disabling and does not always correlate with the degree of apparent inflammation.
What Does Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Hands Feel Like
When your hands are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience swelling around the affected joint, which leads to pain or tenderness. The joint may feel warm to the touch. Swelling tends to be symmetrical, which means it occurs in the same joints on both right and left hands.
Stiffness with immobility is characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis in the hands as well, says Lindsay S. Lally, MD, a rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Symptoms like stiffness and pain are usually worse in the morning, and can last at least 30 minutes or more.
Together these hand symptoms can impair function and the ability to go about your daily routine and tasks.
This can manifest in difficulty using the fingers, decreased hand dexterity, inability to bend or straighten affected joints, and decreased strength, says Dr. Albayda. Sometimes RA can cause loosening of ligaments and tendons in the hands, resulting in permanent deformities of the hand, adds Dr. Lally. Evidence suggests that hand deformities commonly occur in the first year of rheumatoid arthritis if it goes untreated.
Some specific hand problems and deformities that can be caused or made worse by rheumatoid arthritis include:
Applying For Disability Benefits
The Social Security disability benefit claims and approval process is detailed and complicated. In order to be approved for benefits, you need to provide as much documentation and evidence as possible.
You will be required to provide tests that confirm your diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, which will include scans such as MRIs, x-rays, and blood tests.
Your doctors detailed notes that indicate any limitations or restrictions are also required. Your records should detail any treatments you have undergone and how your condition responded to them.
You can start the application process online on the SSAâs website. You can schedule an appointment at your local SSA office to start the application in person as well. Because the claims process is complicated, you can benefit significantly by recruiting the help of a disability attorney or advocate.
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Talk To Your Healthcare Provider
RA is a chronic disease that doesnt currently have a cure. That said, most people with RA dont have constant symptoms. Instead, they have flare-ups followed by relatively symptom-free periods called remissions.
The course of the disease varies from person to person, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Though symptoms may stop for extended periods, joint problems caused by RA will usually get worse over time. Thats why early treatment is so important to help delay serious joint damage.
If youre experiencing any symptoms or have concerns about RA, talk to your healthcare provider.
Talk To Your Doctor About Surgery Options
If pain is unrelenting or there is loss if function in the hands, your rheumatologist may refer you for a surgical evaluation, particularly when theres an anatomic defect that can be corrected, says Dr. Albayda.
Surgery may involve removal of inflamed joint linings, tendon repair, joint fusions, or joint replacements. Depending on the joint involved, the degree of damage, and other factors, you hand surgeon will determine the most appropriate treatment to help correct deformities, relieve pain, or improve function.
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How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Hands
Many joints are covered with a lining called the synovium, which lubricates the joint so it moves more easily. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, the synovium becomes inflamed, thickens, and produces an excess of joint fluid. This is known as synovitis. That extra fluid along with the inflammatory chemicals released by the immune system causes swelling, damages cartilage, and softens the bone within the joint. The swollen tissue may stretch the surrounding ligaments, resulting in deformity and instability, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. The inflammation may also weaken and damage tendons. Ligaments are connective tissues that join two bones tendons are connective issues that join muscle to bone.
When RA strikes the hand, it is most common in the wrist and finger knuckles more specifically the MCP joint, or the large knuckle where the fingers and thumb meet the hand, and the PIP joint, or middle knuckle, explains Jemima Albayda, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
The first knuckle at the top of the finger closest to the nails the DIP, or distal interphalangeal joint is generally spared in RA. In the wrist, RA often affects the joint between the two bones of the forearm, the radius and ulna.
Keep A Healthy Weight
Fat cells release cytokines. More fat cells means more cytokines, and more cytokines means more inflammation. That makes RA symptoms worse and causes more damage to your body.
Extra weight can even make some medications that treat RA less effective. Studies show that biologics and biosimilars work for only about half of people who are overweight, compared with 75% of people at a healthy weight. Some disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs also donât work as well when youâre overweight.
And whether you have RA or not, adding pounds to your frame puts pressure on your joints. The ones that bear weight feel the most strain, like your:
Combined with a disease that wears down your joints, that means double trouble.
What Is The Difference
Rheumatoid arthritis vs. osteoarthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are both common causes of pain and stiffness in joints. But they have different causes. In osteoarthritis, inflammation and injury break down your cartilage over time. In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks the lining of your joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis vs. gout
Rheumatoid arthritis and gout are both painful types of arthritis. Gout symptoms include intense pain, redness, stiffness, swelling and warmth in your big toe or other joints. In gout, uric acid crystals cause inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis, its your immune system that causes joint damage.
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated
Joint damage generally occurs within the first two years of diagnosis, so its important to see your provider if you notice symptoms. Treating rheumatoid arthritis in this window of opportunity can help prevent long-term consequences.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis include lifestyle changes, therapies, medicine and surgery. Your provider considers your age, health, medical history and how bad your symptoms are when deciding on a treatment.
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Starting And Raising A Family
If you are taking medicines for rheumatoid arthritis, let your healthcare team know if you want to start a family or if you are worried about becoming pregnant while on medication.
Some medications, such as methotrexate, leflunomide and biological treatments, should not be taken by men or women while they are trying for a baby. The doctors and nurses will work with you to ensure your rheumatoid arthritis is controlled while you are trying to get pregnant.
Babies and young children are physically and mentally demanding for any parent, but particularly so if you have rheumatoid arthritis. If you are struggling to cope, it may help to talk to other people in the same situation as you. You may also be able to get additional support from your health visitor or occupational therapist to help you manage your young family.
Can Moist Heat Or Ice Help Ra Pain
Both of these simple methods can ease RA pain and stiffness.
Use a warm, moist compress on your fingers and hands for 15 minutes before you exercise.
To reduce swelling, use ice packs. Put an ice pack on the painful joint for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
You may want to switch between moist heat and ice packs. Experiment to find out what works best for you, and then make it part of your routine before and after exercise. Read more about heat and cold therapy for arthritis pain.
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What Do I Do If I Think I Have Rheumatoid Arthritis
If youre experiencing joint pain and inflammation, its important that you discuss your symptoms with your doctor. Getting a diagnosis as soon as possible means that treatment can start quickly. Early treatment will help you to control the inflammation, manage pain more effectively and minimise the risk of long-term joint damage and disability.
If youre diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or suspected of having the condition, you may be referred to a medical specialist known as a rheumatologist for further investigations and medical treatment.
Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Research shows that people who take part in their own care report less pain and make fewer doctor visits. They also enjoy a better quality of life.
Self-care can help you play a role in managing your RA and improving your health. You can:
- Learn about rheumatoid arthritis and its treatments.
- Use exercises and relaxation techniques to reduce your pain and help you stay active.
- Communicate well with your health care team so you can have more control over your disease.
- Reach out for support to help cope with the physical emotional, and mental effects of rheumatoid arthritis.
Participating in your care can help build confidence in your ability to perform day-to-day activities, allowing you to lead a full, active, and independent life.
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How Ra Hand Pain Is Diagnosed
Theres no one test to diagnose RA and in its early stages, signs and symptoms can mimic those of many other diseases.
But early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is important for the best outcome. We are learning that we need to control inflammation much more aggressively upfront as joint damage can ensue early on, says Dr. Albayda. Hence, there has been a shift in treatment paradigms to catching patients early and instituting treat-to-target control.
To help determine whether you have RA in your hand or wrist, a health care provider will examine your hands and fingers for such symptoms as:
- Joint instability
They will also ask questions about other symptoms that tend to go along with RA, such as fatigue, flu-like symptoms, fever, and disrupted sleep.
A health care provider may order imaging tests to check for certain characteristics of RA, such as narrowing of the joint space or erosions of the bone. They will run blood tests to look for antibodies that may be found in people with RA as well as elevated levels of markers of inflammation in the blood.
Neglecting Your Oral Health
Research suggests that tooth loss may predict RA and its severity. Researchers who have studied the connection between RA and periodontal disease discovered similarities in the joint and oral tissues, and in the inflammatory processes that affect them. The types of cells that infiltrate both tissues of the joints in RA and of the mouth in periodontitis a progressive form of gum disease are similar. Also, the levels of pro-inflammatory proteins, such as tumor necrosis factor , interleukin-1, and interleukin-6, are also similar in both RA and periodontitis. There are potential consequences when oral health is neglected.
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See A Physical Or Occupational Therapist
They can help you become stronger and more flexible. Your doctor can give you a referral.
Therapists can show you the safest ways to move your body for everyday tasks, like lifting a box, to help protect your joints. They can also teach you exercises to do at home safely. You want to build strength, but you don’t want to overdo it and trigger a flare.
An occupational therapist shows you ways to do specific tasks at home or at work. A physical therapist helps keep you moving. No matter which type you choose, it’s best to see someone who has experience working with people who have arthritis.
Get A Free Case Evaluation
A disability lawyer could improve your odds of being approved for monthly disability benefits.
You have a lot to gain from a successful Social Security disability claim. A successful claim wouldnt just mean consistent financial support for your ailmentit would also grant you the kind of stability that you may have been missing out on for years now.
Unfortunately, winning a claim isnt a cakewalk, which is why you should consider consulting a Social Security disability attorney or advocate.
Your attorney will use his or her knowledge and experience to fight on your behalf and help you get the benefits you needand you dont even need to pay your lawyer unless you win.
A successful Social Security claim could be life-changing, so dont wait to get an evaluation and talk to a Social Security disability attorney as soon as possible.
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