Learn What Causes Ra Symptoms To Flare And What You Can Do To Help Manage Them
Medically reviewed in July 2022
Approximately 1.4 million adults in the United States are living with rheumatoid arthritis . When you have this autoimmune disease, your bodys immune system sees your own cells as foreign and targets them, causing inflammation in various tissues, particularly in your joints.
Increased inflammation causes the synoviumthe tissue that lines the inside of your jointsto thicken. Normally the synovium produces a fluid that lubricates the joints, allowing them to move smoothly. But when the lining thickens, it causes swelling and pain in and around the joints.
What are the risks of RA? RA typically affects the wrists, elbows, hands, feet, knees, and ankles. Women are about two to three times more likely to develop RA than men and most people are diagnosed when theyre in their sixties.
If you have RA, untreated inflammation can affect your cartilage as well, leading to damage and loss of cushioning between the bones in your joints. Extensive damage or loss of cartilage can create bone-on-bone contact, which can cause pain and lead to destruction of the bone.
Because RA is a systemic diseasemeaning it affects the entire bodyit can increase your risk for other medical conditions, especially conditions that affect the heart, blood vessels, and lungs.
There are two types of flares: predictable flare-ups, which are caused by something that can be identified, and unpredictable flare-ups, which have causes that may be difficult to identify.
Look For More Symptoms
I have named a few red flags of a flare-up, but there are many others, as well. You may have joint pain in your jaw, elbow, or shoulders. You may experience digestive issues, anxiety, or any number of symptoms. Its important to always be cognizant of your body and take the time to check in. If you can get ahead of a flare before it gets worse, youll be better off in the long run! Be prepared and get a game plan in place for if you run into any of these 10 red flags.
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How Obesity Makes Arthritis Management Worse
Consider this: Every one pound of excess weight exerts three to six pounds of extra force on joints, says Dr. DiRenzo. If youre 10 pounds overweight, it increases the force on your knees by 30 to 60 pounds with each step being 100 pounds overweight means 300 to 600 pounds of extra pressure. All that extra weight on already damaged joints worsens the pain and stiffness and can accelerate disease progression.
Extra fat also means more inflammation. Cytokine levels are already high when you have inflammatory arthritis obesity compounds it. Research published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews found obesity can lead to more active and severe RA and PsA. Youre less likely to achieve sustained remission, as well, compared to those with a healthy BMI, according to other studies. And research suggests obese people with ankylosing spondylitis a type of inflammatory arthritis that can causes some vertebrae in the spine to fuse are likely to have worse symptoms, less physical function, and lower quality of life.
Plus, obesity may impact how well some of your arthritis meds work, adds Caroline A. Andrew, MD, medical weight management specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Studies have shown that some DMARDs , which are used to treat inflammatory arthritis, may not be as effective in people who are overweight or obese, she says.
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Work On How You Manage Stress
When youâre stressed out, itâs not just in your head. Your body makes more stress hormones, which may trigger RA symptoms.
Thereâs no way to avoid stress completely, of course. But you can help prevent it if you take better care of yourself when you know that you have stressful events coming up, like work deadlines.
Look for new ways to ease your mind. For instance, exercise releases âfeel-goodâ hormones called endorphins. Studies show that moving around improves your mood and helps you sleep better. Pick activities that donât put pressure on your joints. For example, go for a walk instead of a jog.
Mind-body techniques also can lower stress. Examples are:
Check to see if your local community center offers free or low-cost classes.
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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How An Ra Flare Ends
Just as the onset of the flare was marked by a gradual worsening of symptoms, the end of the flare will be marked by a gradual lessening of the severity of symptoms. Intense, constant pain will give way to less intense pain, a decrease in joint swelling, and a gradual return of movement. Additionally, as symptoms become less intense, the ability to sleep soundly returns.2
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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis
Arthritis is a general term for inflammation in joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of chronic arthritis that occurs in joints on both sides of the body , which helps distinguish it from other types of arthritis.
In addition to affecting the joints, rheumatoid arthritis may occasionally affect other parts of the body, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, nerves, or kidneys.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that patients immune system is overreacting against itself. The result can cause some or all of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
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What Levels Of Arthritis Flares Are There
There are four levels of arthritis flares:
- Level 1: mild arthritis pain, stiffness, or swelling in one joint
- Level 2: moderate arthritis pain, stiffness, or swelling in one or more joints
- Level 3: severe arthritis pain, stiffness, or swelling in one or more joints
- Level 4: intense arthritis pain, stiffness, or swelling in one or more joints
Follow Your Treatment Plan
Work with your rheumatologist on an action plan that you can initiate in the event of a flare, says Smith, and follow it to a T when a flare kicks in.
Everyone experiences RA and flares differently, so management strategies differ too, adds Michelle J. Ormseth, MD, a rheumatologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. In most cases, a regimen of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and a corticosteroid can bring minor flares under control. More severe flares may call for an immunosuppressant drug or, if youre already on one, a change in that drug, along with a corticosteroid to help tame inflammation and other symptoms.
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Balance Rest With Activity
Rest is important. However, sticking with your regular exercise program, or a modified version of it, may actually help you feel better. Try alternating rest with light activity, which could even be something as simple as slowly raising and lowering your legs while seated. But dont overdo it, and if it hurts, stop.
Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the type of exercises that are easiest on your joints, and whether practicing gentle stretching in the morning might help relieve stiffness.
What Causes Gout To Flare Up
Gout is a complex form of arthritis that can flare up suddenly and severely. It occurs as a result of having high levels of uric acid, which makes it easier for urate crystals to form. These sharp crystals can deposit in your joints, causing inflammation, swelling and pain.
âThe most common trigger of gout is eating purine-rich foods, since high levels of purines can increase the amount of uric acid in your bloodstream,â explains Dr. Alam.
Gout-sufferers can help avoid flare-ups by avoiding foods rich in purines, including:
- Certain types of seafood, including tuna, scallops and trout
- Alcohol, particularly beer
- Fruit juices and other beverages that contain fructose
âSimilar to rheumatoid arthritis, a flare-up of gout can be alleviated by using a cold compress on the affected joint, which helps reduce the inflammation thatâs causing your pain, swelling and stiffness,â says Dr. Alam.
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What Is The Prognosis For People Who Have Rheumatoid Arthritis
Although there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are many effective methods for decreasing the pain and inflammation and slowing down the disease process. Early diagnosis and effective treatment are very important.
Extensive research is being done to learn the cause of rheumatoid arthritis and the best methods of treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/17/2017.
Can My Diet Affect Medication
Its important that you take any medication youve been given as youve been told to by your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Some drugs need to be taken in a specific way, such as before or after food, or with water you should be told about this, but the information leaflet included with your medication will also explain this, so make sure to read this carefully.
Taking certain drugs with food or after youve eaten can help to reduce the risk of certain side effects such as indigestion, stomach ulcers, feeling sick or vomiting. It can also help your body to absorb the drug properly and can make sure its not washed away by food or drink, for example if you use mouthwashes or gels.
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How Does A Normal Joint Work
A joint is where two bones meet. Most of our joints are designed to allow the bones to move in certain directions and within certain limits.
For example, the knee is the largest joint in the body and one of the most complicated. It must be strong enough to take our weight and must lock into position, so we can stand upright.
It also has to act as a hinge, so we can walk, and needs to twist and turn when we run or play sports.
The end of each bone is covered with cartilage that has a very smooth, slippery surface. The cartilage allows the ends of the bones to move against each other, almost without rubbing.
The joint is held in place by the synovium, which contains thick fluid to protect the bones and joint.
The synovium has a tough outer layer that holds the joint in place and stops the bones moving too far.
Strong cords called tendons anchor the muscles to the bones.
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Are Triggers Causing Your Psoriasis Flare
If your psoriasis seems to flare for no reason, one or more triggers could be to blame. Everyday things like stress, a bug bite, and cold temperatures can trigger psoriasis.
Triggers vary from person to person. By finding your triggers and learning how to manage them, you can gain better control of your psoriasis and have fewer flares.
To find yours, youll have to do a bit of detective work. A good place to start is by looking at this chart of the common triggers, which also gives you signs that that it could be a trigger for you.
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Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Go Away
No, rheumatoid arthritis doesnt go away. Its a condition youll have for the rest of your life. But you may have periods where you dont notice symptoms. These times of feeling better may come and go.
That said, the damage RA causes in your joints is here to stay. If you dont see a provider for RA treatment, the disease can cause permanent damage to your cartilage and, eventually, your joints. RA can also harm organs like your lung and heart.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may feel like youre on a lifelong roller coaster of pain and fatigue. Its important to share these feelings and your symptoms with your healthcare provider. Along with X-rays and blood tests, what you say about your quality of life will help inform your treatment. Your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and recommend the right treatment plan for your needs. Most people can manage rheumatoid arthritis and still do the activities they care about.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/18/2022.
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Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes Symptoms Treatments & How To Manage Flare Ups
Managing your rheumatoid arthritis is an ongoing balancing act. Even people with well-controlled RA symptoms can be surprised by sudden flare ups.
Rheumatoid arthritis flare ups are a well-known symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, and when youre in the middle of a flare, it can feel as though nothing can help. Weve created this article to hopefully help ease your pain.
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What Causes Flare
Recognising the signs of an oncoming flare is the first step in managing RA flare-ups.
Unfortunately, not all flares are predictable. They may seem to come on out of nowhere and the pain can last anywhere from hours to weeks.
Some common triggers that RA patients describe include poor sleep, overexertion of the joints, certain foods, stress, infections, alcohol and tobacco use.
What Do Ra Flare
You will know when you are in a flare, wrote one myRAteam member. The usual pain that we learn to live with multiplies by an unknown amount.
As this member stated, RA flare-ups are often apparent because they cause typical RA symptoms to worsen. This may not necessarily be excruciating as one member in flare described, Its not major inflammation or screaming pain, but enough to let me know things are not right.
Three of the most common symptoms that develop or worsen during RA flares are joint symptoms, fatigue, and fever. A person experiencing an RA flare may also feel generally unwell, as if they are coming down with an illness. Think I started a flare, wrote one myRAteam member. Serious fatigue, low-grade fever, and increased aching joints like Im coming down with something.
Some people with RA find that they experience less typical symptoms while in flare: one member wrote that they have increased ear fullness/ache, while another shared that they have had stomach upset This flare, Ive had tons of belly issues! The bloating is so uncomfortable!
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Researching The Right Weight Loss Plan
So whats a poor soul with an autoimmune disease, an affinity for bagels, and a plentiful belly to do? I turned to my go-to Facebook support groups and asked a pretty straight-forward question: Has anyone lost weight and was able to keep it off? I posted. If so, how did you do it?
I got tons of responses, and, not surprisingly, they were all over the map, since none of us know really know what were doing. Heres what folks said:
Note: CreakyJoints encourages everyone with inflammatory arthritis to talk to a rheumatologist about the finding the right treatment plan for them. You should always talk to your doctor before making a significant change to your eating habits. Diets should not replace any medication plan recommended by your doctor. Prescription medications are often at the core of treatment due to the strong evidence supporting their success.
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What Are Some Tips For Managing Arthritis Flares
There are many things you can do to manage your arthritis flares, including:
- Resting: When you are experiencing a flare, it is important to rest the affected joint. This will help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Applying ice: Applying ice to the affected joint for 20 minutes at a time can help reduce swelling and pain.
- Taking medication: If your primary care doctor has prescribed medication for your arthritis, such as:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs : These medications can help reduce chronic pain and inflammation. Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Corticosteroids: These medications can help reduce inflammation. Examples of corticosteroids include prednisone and methylprednisolone.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs : These medications can help slow the progression of arthritis. Examples of DMARDs include methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine.
Arthritis flares can be painful and disruptive, but there are things you can do to manage them. Work with your nurse practioner to develop a plan that works for you, and be sure to rest and apply ice to the affected joint when a flare-up occurs.
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Early Stage Signs And Symptoms
A person can develop RA at any stage in their life. However, the condition most commonly develops between the ages of 30 and 50 years old.
People with early stage RA may not see redness and swelling in their joints. However, they may experience some joint tenderness and pain. A general feeling of stiffness throughout the body in the morning may suggest a person has RA.
Someone with early stage RA may also experience fatigue. Fatigue can be both mental and physical and can cause a person to feel extremely tired, preventing them from performing their usual daily tasks.
The inflammation that comes with RA may cause a person to develop a fever. A person has a fever if their body temperature rises above the typical range of 98100°F . Fever is a common sign of inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases.
A person may also experience weight loss due to the inflammation from RA. In addition, someone with fatigue and fever may experience appetite loss, which can contribute to weight loss.
As the inflammatory process of RA progresses, symptoms can worsen. A person may experience more extreme fatigue and continue to have fevers and lose weight.
Common symptoms of RA include the below.
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