I have done blogs on Rheumatoid Arthritis before and I probably will do more in the future . It is something that the life of many, including me. However it is not the end of the world. It is merely a new chapter in your life if you get it.
First lets start off with the scary bits. I know some of you might think the picture above is scary enough, but let me assure you, it doesn’t have to get that bad.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect more than just your joints. In some people, the condition can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.
RA varies a lot from person to person. It can affect almost any joint, the small joints of the fingers, thumbs, wrists, feet and ankles are most commonly affected. Knees and shoulders can also be affected and, less commonly, elbows, hips, neck, and other joints. Most people are affected in more than one joint. RA usually affects both sides of the body – not always at once, but usually within a short space of time.
Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. The inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis is what can damage other parts of the body as well. While new types of medications have improved treatment options dramatically, severe rheumatoid arthritis can still cause physical disabilities.
Signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
- Fatigue, fever and loss of appetite
Early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect your smaller joints first — particularly the joints that attach your fingers to your hands and your toes to your feet.
As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body.
About 40% of people who have rheumatoid arthritis also experience signs and symptoms that don’t involve the joints. Areas that may be affected include:
- Salivary glands
- Nerve tissue
- Bone marrow
- Blood vessels
Rheumatoid arthritis signs and symptoms may vary in severity and may even come and go. Periods of increased disease activity, called flares, alternate with periods of relative remission — when the swelling and pain fade or disappear. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis can cause joints to deform and shift out of place.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Normally, your immune system helps protect your body from infection and disease. In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks healthy tissue in your joints. It can also cause medical problems with your heart, lungs, nerves, eyes and skin.
Doctors don’t know what starts this process, although a genetic component appears likely. While your genes don’t actually cause rheumatoid arthritis, they can make you more likely to react to environmental factors — such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria — that may trigger the disease.(In my case and this is just a theory I think it may have been trauma)
Factors that may increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Your sex. Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
- Age. Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, but it most commonly begins in middle age.
- Family history. If a member of your family has rheumatoid arthritis, you may have an increased risk of the disease.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking increases your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, particularly if you have a genetic predisposition for developing the disease. Smoking also appears to be associated with greater disease severity.
- Excess weight. People who are overweight appear to be at a somewhat higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Now that is the scary bit out of the way. We can focus now on how to write that new chapter of your life. There are many options available on how to deal with RA. To me the best thing I did was following a course called “Living Well with Arthritis and Related Conditions” which is a course which was designed by the Stanford University in California. It is a 6 weeks course of 2.5 hours sessions each.
The strength of the course it is given by people who have RA themselves, together with someone else, sometimes a healthcare professional and sometimes even 2 people with RA.
The course was so beneficial to me that I ended up as one of the tutors or leaders.
It is not so much a self help program nut more a self management program. It covers a variety of subjects like problem solving, breathing techniques, diets, physical activity, distraction and action plans. It is all in plain understandable language.
This is a interview I did with one of my co leaders. Where we both discuss on how we we deal with the disease In the video my co leader, Andrea, gives an example one of the distraction exercises called ‘Guided Imagery’
At the bottom of this blog I will add the links to Arthritis Ireland and some further information by the Mayo Clinic.
I hope this blog will be a help for all of those who have RA or live with someone who has the condition.