Can I Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis
You cannot prevent rheumatoid arthritis because the cause of the disease is not known.
Quitting smoking, or never smoking, will reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. You are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis if someone in your close family has it, but unfortunately there is no way to reduce this risk.
People who have rheumatoid arthritis often experience flare ups, which are times when their joints are particularly sore. Learning what triggers your flare ups can help reduce or prevent them.
For some people, stress can trigger a flare up, so can being run down or pushing yourself beyond your limits. Having an infection, missing a dose of your medicine or changing your treatment plan can also cause a flare up.
Keeping a food and activity diary may help work out your personal triggers but keep in mind that sometimes flare ups happen without any obvious cause.
How Common Is Ra Back Pain
When back pain is RA related, inflammation in the cervical spine is usually the cause.
RA primarily affects peripheral jointssuch as in the hands, feet, and kneesbut the cervical spine is the second most common region thatâs affected.
The spine is affected when RA progresses. In other words, inflammation in the back and spine may indicate a more advanced disease. However, the damage can be seen on X-rays as early as two years after diagnosis.
A 2015 report suggests that more than 80% of people with RA have some cervical spine involvement.
Although pain in the lumbar spine, or low back, is not commonly a part of RA, itâs associated with RA. This means that if you have RA, itâs common to also have low back pain.
A 2013 study reported that up to 65.5% of people with RA may experience low back pain. The researchers also noted that people with RA who had low back pain reported lower quality of life and had an increased risk for depression.
A 2017 report in the German medical journal Zeitschrift fÃ¼r Rheumatologie also found that low back pain in those with RA led to a higher degree of disability.
What Can Be Done For Ra Pain
It should be stressed that adequate suppression of inflammation is the first step in managing RA pain. However, since the pain in RA may have multiple causes, a combination of treatments is often required. Most patients who have RA will be familiar with many of the treatments listed below:
A. Non-drug therapy for pain
B. Drug therapy for RA pain
The usual drugs used for treating the inflammation of RA are:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen
- disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs , including methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine or sulfasalazine the biologics including anti-TNF or anti-interleukin 6 therapies, rituximab and abatacept and JAK inhibitors
- corticosteroids .
Most studies of RA focus on anti-inflammation therapies, and in large studies, it is not always practical to work out how much of an individuals pain is due to tendon and osteoarthritis pain.
It is uncommon to find one drug that relieves all arthritis pain for any one person. The medications commonly used to treat musculoskeletal pain, including that associated with RA, are:
This is commonly used for joint pains, although it seems to have only mild joint pain-relieving effects. It is generally safe in doses up to 2 grams daily. Very high doses or high regular use together with heavy alcohol intake can lead to liver damage.
OTHER MEDICATION OPTIONS
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What Are The Tests For Rheumatoid Arthritis
The doctor will want to check your blood and other fluids. TheyÃ¢ll also probably take images of your joints.
The doctor may use a needle to take blood or joint fluid while youÃ¢re in the office. Or they might send you to a lab for these tests. Rheumatologists look for signs of inflammation like:
- Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides antibodies. They signal bone damage caused by RA.
- C-reactive protein . Levels go up when you have inflammation.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate . It measures the speed at which your blood settles to the bottom of a test tube. Faster settling is a sign of inflammation.
- Rheumatoid factor. Your body churns out these proteins when it attacks healthy tissue.
- Synovial fluid. Your doctor will test it for proteins, signs of infection, and a lack of thickness.
Your doctor may order X-rays an MRI scan, which uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make a more detailed picture or a CT scan, which takes X-rays from several angles and puts them together to get more information.
You might not get a definite RA diagnosis on your first visit. In some cases, it can take a few appointments for your rheumatologist to rule out other causes of your joint pain.
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Talking To Your Doctor About A Medication Switch
If youre in chronic pain, your rheumatologist wants to know. Its not okay to just feel fine or live with it for several good reasons.
I dont want my patients to be living in pain, says Leah Alon , MD, a rheumatologist in New York City. Chronic pain is related to depression and acute pain is related to anxiety. Pain also impacts your relationships, your ability to care for your family, and your ability to find and maintain a job.
If your medication isnt working well enough and RA inflammation persists, it can cause permanent damage to the joints. Once you get damage to the joint, there is no way back, says Dr. Alon. You can prevent further damage, but you cant correct the damage that was already done.
Whats more, since untreated RA can cause systemic or all-over inflammation, it can have a negative impact on many parts of your body, including skin, lungs, heart, nerves, and kidneys.
If youre anxious about trying a new medication or are afraid you cant afford it, dont hesitate to let your rheumatologist know. We want to understand all of your concerns surrounding your medication so we can help guide you and make recommendations, says Dr. Schulman.
When it comes to considering a treatment change, its always a we make together.
Here are a few questions you can ask your rheumatologist if youre considering a treatment change:
The good news is that there are more medications than ever to treat RA and manage pain.
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Medication To Control Inflammation
In the case of RA, all other pain-relief strategies are secondary to controlling inflammation, Ali says. That means treating with medications that alter the course of the disease such as traditional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs or more targeted options like biologic drugs or .
These drugs each work differently to suppress the bodys overactive immune system response and are also used to prevent joint damage and slow the progression of the disease. Theyre often prescribed shortly after an RA diagnosis in order to prevent as much joint damage as possible though it may take up to six months or so to fully feel the drugs benefits. It can also take time to find the right treatment or combination of treatments to help you gain control of RA.
Steroids may also be used to bridge the gap during an acute flare, adds Ali, though they are typically only used for a short period of time, due to the side effects they are associated with.
How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect How People See Themselves
Rheumatoid arthritis is relatively common in young women. The limitations it can cause come right at a time when most of their peers are in good health, and that can be hard to deal with.
Some women worry that they can’t be a good mother or partner. Young women who have rheumatoid arthritis often wonder whether they should even have children. Having this disease doesn’t mean that getting pregnant isn’t an option. But it’s important to keep in mind that not all of the rheumatoid arthritis medication can be taken before and during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. You can talk to a rheumatologist or gynecologist about this early on. Men who are trying for a baby with their partner also need to stop taking certain rheumatoid arthritis medications for a while.
Some people are concerned about loss of status if they have to give up their job or take on a different position. The pain and loss of strength can also affect how you see yourself. It can be hard to show weakness or accept help, especially for men. Quite a few people even try ignoring the condition as much as possible because it doesn’t fit in with how they view themselves. They’d like to stay in control and continue living the life they’re used to as much as possible. This can be physically and emotionally draining, though. It can sometimes lead to depressive thoughts, frustration and aggression.
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What Is Hashimotos Thyroiditis
Hashimotos thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks cells in the thyroid gland. Over time, this can cause chronic inflammation and eventual thyroid failure. Therefore, people with Hashimotos often develop hypothyroidism because their thyroid gland cannot produce thyroid hormone, which helps control metabolism.
Often, Hashimotos goes undetected until a person develops an underactive thyroid. Therefore, people with this condition develop symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Suppose you or your doctor suspect you have Hashimotos. In that case, you should order a complete thyroid panel to check your thyroid hormone levels and TPO antibodies, which help indicate if there is an autoimmune process at play.
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Evening Primrose Oil Supplements
Some plant oils may reduce pain and stiffness associated with RA. Evening primrose oil contains an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid that may provide some relief.
A 2016 study found that taking evening primrose oil and fish oil may reduce inflammation and disease activity.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health , however, more research is needed on the effectiveness of primrose oil.
Again, check with your doctor before taking evening primrose oil, as it may interact with some medications. Potential side effects include headache and an upset stomach.
Thunder god vine grows in China and Taiwan and is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Research has indicated that it may be effective for treating RA symptoms.
According to a 2015 study , thunder god vine was comparable to the standard RA drug methotrexate in relieving symptoms. The study found that taking both was even more effective.
A 2018 research review also suggested that thunder god vine supplements may help reduce inflammation. Still, more research is needed on long-term effects and safety.
Talk to your doctor and assess the benefits before trying thunder god vine, as it may have some serious side effects. These can include reduced bone mineral content, infertility, rashes, and hair loss.
Thunder god vine can also be poisonous if it isnt prepared correctly.
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What Types Of Lifestyle Changes Can Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Having a lifelong illness like rheumatoid arthritis may make you feel like you dont have much control over your quality of life. While there are aspects of RA that you cant control, there are things you can do to help you feel the best that you can.
Such lifestyle changes include:
When your joints are inflamed, the risk of injury to your joints and nearby soft tissue structures is high. This is why you need to rest your inflamed joints. But its still important for you to exercise. Maintaining a good range of motion in your joints and good fitness overall are important in coping with RA.
Pain and stiffness can slow you down. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis become inactive. But inactivity can lead to a loss of joint motion and loss of muscle strength. These, in turn, decrease joint stability and increase pain and fatigue.
Regular exercise can help prevent and reverse these effects. You might want to start by seeing a physical or occupational therapist for advice about how to exercise safely. Beneficial workouts include:
- Range-of-motion exercises to preserve and restore joint motion.
- Exercises to increase strength.
- Exercises to increase endurance .
Dress In Light Layers
Cold weather may make arthritis symptoms worse. To beat the chill, dress in lightweight layers — they trap body heat without weighing you down. Start with clothing made from a wicking fabric, such as silk or a nylon blend, and top it with a warm layer, such as fleece or a sweater. Headed outside? Add a weatherproof jacket, scarf, hat, and gloves.
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How Is Hip Arthritis Diagnosed
Your doctor may use the following diagnostic tools to determine if you have hip arthritis:
- Medical history and physical examination
- Blood tests for genetic markers and/or RA antibodies
- X-rays to determine cartilage loss
You cant see cartilage on X-ray, but you can see the space between the bones of the hip joint. If its narrowing, this could mean that cartilage has been lost. X-rays also show bone spurs and cysts, which develop due to osteoarthritis. MRI of the hip is usually not needed to diagnose arthritis.
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What Are The Early Signs Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Early signs of rheumatoid arthritis include tenderness or pain in small joints like those in your fingers or toes. Or you might notice pain in a larger joint like your knee or shoulder. These early signs of RA are like an alarm clock set to vibrate. It might not always been enough to get your attention. But the early signs are important because the sooner youre diagnosed with RA, the sooner your treatment can begin. And prompt treatment may mean you are less likely to have permanent, painful joint damage.
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Use Heat And Cold To Relieve Pain
Applying heat, either with a heating pad or warm water, can help relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain temporarily, the Mayo Clinic says. Katy says that taking regular baths with generous handfuls of Epsom salt helps ease her pain and stiffness.
Samantha sometimes uses a heating pad and she also swims in a heated pool when she is feeling well enough. When I get into an 80-degree pool, all the pain goes away, she says. I dont do it more often because of all the pain it takes to get to the pool. She also has a bathtub that she uses occasionally to get some relief.
On the flip side, exposure to cold temperatures may also reduce pain and inflammation, says the Mayo Clinic, which suggests using cold packs on your muscles after intense exercise. Be sure to put something between your skin and the pack to protect yourself.
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What Do I Need To Know About Ra Medicines And Pregnancy
- Men: Talk to your doctor about your RA and the medicines you take. Some medicines may keep your partner from getting pregnant. Talk to your doctor if you and your partner are discussing pregnancy.
- Women: Talk to your gynecologist about contraceptives. Tell him or her about your RA and what medicines you take. He or she will tell you what the best contraceptive for will be. Not all contraceptives are effective if you have RA and are taking certain medicines. You may not be able to breastfeed if you are taking certain RA medicines.
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Why Do People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Get Pain
- Active inflammation in a joint
- Usage-related joint pain due to muscle weakness
- Secondary osteoarthritis
This is why it is unusual to find that just one therapy is completely effective at relieving any one persons pain. It is also important to realise that the cause of pain may differ between joints within an individual patient.
What Support Devices Can Help Manage Ra
- Orthotic shoes or insoles help support your feet when you walk.
- Crutches, a cane, or a walker may help decrease your risk for falling. They also decrease stress on affected joints.
- Devices to prevent falls include raised toilet seats and bathtub bars to help you get up from sitting. Handrails can be placed in areas where you need balance and support.
- Devices to help with support and rest include splints to wear on your hands and a firm pillow while you sleep. Use a pillow that is firm enough to support your neck and head.
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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How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider may refer you to a physician who specializes in arthritis . Rheumatologists diagnose people with rheumatoid arthritis based on a combination of several factors. Theyll do a physical exam and ask you about your medical history and symptoms. Your rheumatologist will order blood tests and imaging tests.
The blood tests look for inflammation and blood proteins that are signs of rheumatoid arthritis. These may include:
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate or sed rate confirms inflammation in your joints.
- C-reactive protein .
- About 80% of people with RA test positive for rheumatoid factor .
- About 60% to 70% of people living with rheumatoid arthritis have antibodies to cyclic citrullinated peptides .
Your rheumatologist may order imaging tests to look for signs that your joints are wearing away. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause the ends of the bones within your joints to wear down. The imaging tests may include:
In some cases, your provider may watch how you do over time before making a definitive diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
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