Rheumatoid arthritis treatment
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What is RA?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune condition caused by the immune system attacking joint linings which are known as synovium. The attached synovia become thicker, resulting in joint inflammation and pain. This is an important difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is caused by “wear and tear” whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body is attacking itself. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints and occurs on both sides of the body, whereas osteoarthritis may affect only one knee or elbow, for example. Rheumatoid arthritis can even cause serious problems in the eyes, heart or lungs. It usually develops in middle age and affects more women than men.
Symptoms and causes
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition, meaning it never fully goes away. However, its symptoms can be managed. Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint inflammation and pain and sometimes a low-grade fever, loss of appetite, anemia or fatigue. Hands and feet are commonly affected, and they may become swollen or reddened in addition to stiff and painful.
Early signs of rheumatoid arthritis include morning stiffness, numbness or tingling, and a decreased range of motion in some joints. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints on both sides of the body and can create problems in the eyes, heart or lungs. Symptoms usually come and go - known as flares and then periods of remission, where the patient is symptom-free.
Rheumatoid arthritis is typically treated through a combination of diet, rest, exercise, topical products and supplements. Dietary changes that may be helpful include increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as fatty fish, chia and flax seeds and walnuts, increased Vitamin A, C and E (antioxidants) intake from foods such as berries, spinach, kidney beans and pecans, and getting enough fiber from whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Rest, exercise and hot and cold compresses can also relieve symptoms. Analgesics such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin, as well as some stronger prescription treatments, are also commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.