When you think of rheumatoid arthritis, also referred to as RA, you think of throbbing joints and limited mobility, unexplained pain and incurable discomfort. But what is rheumatoid arthritis exactly? It is defined by the Arthritis Foundation as an autoimmune disease. Doctors and scientists are ultimately unsure as to what is the definitive cause of rheumatoid arthritis; however, they do know that it relates back to the immune system in one way or another. When the immune system isn't functioning correctly, it can accidentally attack the joints causing swelling, pain, and immobility. The joints that this commonly affects are the smaller joints of the hands, feet, wrists and ankles.
Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Genetic?
Right now scientists are studying DNA markers that indicate whether or not you will develop RA but there simply isn't enough research to have a definitive answer. Most doctors recommend that if you have a parent or a grandparent who has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, that you should take preventative measures such as not smoking, or consuming a diet high in healthy Omega fatty acids. While it isn't a guarantee that you will suffer from RA because of your family history, taking these measures can aide in the prevention of rheumatoid arthritis and the control of RA symptoms.
What Are the First Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The signs of rheumatoid arthritis in the early stage of the disease can include pain and tenderness. However, there can be an absence of the typical redness and swelling during this early stage that typically appear as the disease progresses. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can include:
Joint Pain –
This can include morning stiffness for thirty minutes or longer. It can affect the same joints on both sides of the body, often the small joints of the hands and the wrists, with more than one joint being affected.
Many people might experience a loss of energy or feel exceptionally tired for no reason.
Loss of Appetite –
The ongoing inflammation can cause a person to be less hungry or experience nausea.
Low-grade Fever –
The inflammation can also cause a low-grade fever within the body as the immune system fights the non-existent bacteria. This low-grade fever can cause headaches and some body aches.
How Long Do RA Flares Last?
Knowing how long you might have to experience symptoms will help you manage the pain. The length of an RA flare depends on the type of treatment and how quickly you begin treatment. If flares aren't treated, they can last for weeks or even months. Addressing a flare-up of RA immediately can cut the duration significantly – from weeks to days. The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is key to alleviating symptoms of pain and distress.
How Do You Soothe Arthritis?
One of the first ways to combat the symptoms of RA is to prepare yourself mentally: know what to expect, which you have just learned. Next, you need to know what you can do about it. Holistic treatments of rheumatoid arthritis include:
Physical Therapy –
See a physical therapist who can assign you certain exercises and activities that will help strengthen your body and your muscles, which in turn will help alleviate joint pain.
Natural Remedies –
Natural therapies like heat and cold therapy can help ease the swelling and pain of RA. In addition to those, magnet treatments have been used as a way to alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis and could be helpful for RA treatment. Meditation has also been tested and proven to be helpful with the symptoms and stress of RA. By relaxing the mind, you relax the body and thus remove yourself from the pain and upset.
Food and Diet Changes –
There are some foods and supplements that are suspected to help with the symptoms of RA. One of the best supplements to take is fish oil. The Omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil helps lubricate the joints and alleviate the pain of RA. In addition, eating whole and healthy foods such as fish and walnuts, which are packed with Omega-3, can help reduce the swelling and inflammation caused by RA. Emu oil, which is high in Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids, may also reduce inflammation. Emu oil has performed better than fish oil at reducing the effects of inflammation according to some studies.