Rheumatoid Arthritis also known as RA, is a kind of autoimmune disease that particularly attacks people who reached their 60s. Autoimmune disease refers to the case wherein your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues causing them to be inflamed and painful.
In the case of RA, this autoimmune disease attacks particular tissues located in your joints. That’s why people who suffer from this disease endure joint pains, usually on the knees, hands, and wrists.
Long-term effects of this illness include deformity of joints, chronic pain, and loss of proper balance. There are also cases wherein RA affects not just joint tissues, but also other tissues in your body. This may lead to various organ problems.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Symptoms of RA can be mild and severe. People who suffer from this disease may experience flares and remissions of the symptoms. Flares are periods when symptoms are severe and painful. On the other hand, remissions happen when the symptoms cease into mild bearable pain. Symptoms of RA that you should look out for are the following:
- Pain in the joints
- Stiff joints
- Inflamed joints
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of balance
- Joint deformity
Causes and Risk Factors
There is still no clear explanation as to the cause of RA, but there are certain risk factors that might make you more susceptible to getting RA. The risk factors include the following:
- Age - One of the major risk factors of RA is age. Although this illness can develop at any age, people in their 60s most likely experience the onset of RA, and gets worse as they get older.
- Sex - Studies have shown that RA occurs more often in women than in men, especially those who have never given birth.
- Obesity - Recent research has proven that being obese can increase your risk of getting RA. In fact, the more overweight you are, the higher the possibility that you will get RA. That’s why it is crucial to cut down on fatty foods in your diet and establish a workout routine. In this way, you will not only be practicing a healthy lifestyle but you will also reduce your risk of getting Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Genetics - Another risk factor to consider is your family history. If your family, particularly your parents and grandparents have had RA, then there is a higher possibility that you will eventually get it too.
- Environment - Environmental factors can also add up to the odds of you getting RA. For example, if the majority of your family members are smoking, you are most likely exposed to secondhand smoke. Together with an unhealthy lifestyle, this will then increase your risk of getting RA.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment and Medications
Your doctor may diagnose you with RA after careful assessment of the symptoms, physical examinations, and X-rays. You will then be given the most appropriate treatment for the illness. The treatment to be given will help relieve the pain and reduce the frequency of symptom flare-ups.
Some treatments include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) - These treatments can be bought over the counter and primarily works as a pain reliever. It also lessens arthritis-related inflammation. Examples of NSAIDs are Advil, Motril, and Aleve. Although long-term usage of these drugs causes side effects such as bruising, ulcers, and kidney problems.
- Corticosteroids- These drugs help reduce inflammations in the joints and slow the progress of RA. Other doctors inject steroids into the affected joint if oral medications do not work. However, this kind of medication should be used with caution as long-term usage may damage soft tissues in your body. Doctors usually inject corticosteroids thrice a year only.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) - This is the most recommended treatment for RA by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). DMARDs work by slowing the progression of RA as it targets the over-reactive immune system and changes how it works. This will reduce the damage to your tissues and joints.
DMARDs are given to patients with moderate to severe RA and are usually taken for life. Although DMARDs are effective treatments for RA, patients still suffer from side effects like liver damage, stomach ulcers, infections, and hair loss.
TNF-Alpha inhibitor - This is another effective treatment for RA that works the same as DMARDs. It targets your immune system by inhibiting the inflammatory substance called TNF Alpha. TNF-Alpha is released by the immune system when it faces an infection or any threat to the body.
In the case of RA, the immune system mistakenly judges the joint tissues to be a threat. The TNF-Alpha inhibitor then prevents the immune system to attack the tissues to prevent inflammation and damage to your joints.
Examples of TNF-Alpha inhibitors are:
Physical And Occupational Therapy
Other treatment options are physical and occupational therapies wherein patients are taught different strategies on how to do tasks and cope with the illness. Other therapists introduce various assistive tools such as a cane, wheelchair, crutches, and other mobility aids to be able for RA patients to move and walk despite their condition.
In some cases, doctors advise their patients to undergo surgery to treat damaged joints, deformed tissues, and persistent pain caused by RA. Surgeries can range from arthroscopic surgery, carpal tunnel release, and arthroplasty depending on the severity of the disease.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Prevention
Although RA cannot be completely prevented, there are ways you can do to reduce the risk of
getting this illness.
Stay Physically Active
Having a sedentary lifestyle affects your overall health, and it increases the risk of getting various illnesses. That’s why staying physically active is a crucial part of healthy living. Experts recommend establishing at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity like swimming, biking, or jogging to be done 5 days a week. This will help keep your body fit, avoid cholesterol build-up, and maintain healthy bones.
Smoking increases not just the risk of RA but also other illnesses. Another effect of smoking on your health is fatigue. This will make it hard for you to stay physically active which is crucial for managing your RA.
Maintain Normal Weight
As mentioned earlier, the more overweight you are, the more susceptible you are to RA. That’s why it is important to maintain a normal weight by eating a healthy diet and maintaining regular exercise.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of the most common and undesirable illnesses seniors are suffering from. Although there are no clear ways on preventing this illness, there are still ways to reduce the possibility of getting it as well as practices to manage the symptoms. I hope this article helped you have a deeper understanding of RA.