Tags: arthritis, DMARD, RA, RheumaBlog, rheumatoid, Vandever
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We are lucky to have another special guest post from Healthline’s Leslie Vandever! If you have not checked out her previous guest post on Lupus, you should do so – ESPECIALLY if you or a family member or friend is afflicted…
I apologize for the delay in people waiting for this info but without boring you with the details the old saying “Life gets in the way” applies here (multiplied by a factor of 10!)
Without further adieu, here is Leslie’s post on Rheumatoid Arthritis, as before Leslie’s contact info and the article references follow the post – Thanks again Leslie!
RA: More Than Creaky Joints
By Leslie Vandever
“If aches and pains are like a light summer rain, arthritis is like a storm, and rheumatoid arthritis is like a hurricane.”
–“Conquering Rheumatoid Arthritis”
By William Benson, Wynn Benson, and Martin H. Atkinson
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disease that attacks the joints, causing swelling, stiffness and, sometimes, severe pain and disability. It doesn’t stop there, though. It can also attack the lining of the heart—the pericardium—or the lungs. It might go after the veins and arteries, or the eyes. This disease affects 1.3 million Americans of all ages and two or three times more women than men. It can cause early death. And it’s incurable.
If rheumatoid arthritis sounds devastating, it’s because it certainly can be. RA isn’t the creaky-joints arthritis your grandfather complained about. He probably had osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear arthritis that afflicts many older people. RA is a very different animal. The only thing the two diseases share is painful joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. The cause is a mystery, though scientists believe it may be attributed to genetics, or environment, or even lifestyle. With RA, the body’s immune system, which protects it against outside invaders like bacteria and viruses, mistakes its own tissues for them. In response, it produces proteins called antibodies to seek out and destroy the enemy before it can do harm.
This would be great if the synovium (the capsule-like joint lining) really was an enemy. Instead of vanquishing the enemy, the attack causes inflammation, swelling and pain. Eventually, the body’s autoimmune response causes joint damage or destruction, deformity, and disability.
While RA attacks the small joints in the hands, wrists, ankles and feet most often, it can also go after the larger joints, like the shoulders, knees, jaws, or elbows. And, as mentioned above, it can target soft tissues and organs, too.
RA symptoms may include:
· swollen, tender, painful joints
· morning stiffness that lasts for more than an hour
· low-grade fever, fatigue, and flu-like malaise
· same joints on both sides of the body are affected (although not necessarily at the same time)
· firm nodules beneath the skin near the joints
One of the most curious—and frustrating—facts about RA is that it seems to affect each individual in different ways. For instance, while one person will experience joint pain but few other symptoms, another will have them all. Another is that flares—periods of “hyperactive” disease—come and go, often affecting different joints each time.
But there is good news. Although a cure for RA is still a dream, a number of powerful drugs—some of them quite new—have been developed that can drastically slow the progression of the disease and reduce joint pain and destruction. Some of them may even put the disease into remission (a period of prolonged inactivity).
RA drugs include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or naproxen (Aleve); and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil). The newest drugs are the biologic DMARDs, such as etanercept (Enbrel) and abatacept (Orencia).
All of them may be used alone or in combination with the others. Some of them may, rarely, have serious side-effects. The good these drugs do must be weighed against the potentially serious damage the disease is doing—or will do—without them.
Exercise can have a beneficial effect on RA and, of course, is always good for overall health. Although a flared joint shouldn’t be exercised, gently exercising the unaffected joints makes sense. Low-impact exercises that are good for RA include:
· gentle stretching and range-of-motion exercises
· brisk walking
· water exercise or swimming
· strength training (again, only with joints that are not flared)
· Tai Chi
RA can be a devastating disease. But with careful treatment, the person who has it can still live a full, active life with a minimum of pain or disability. For more information about RA or other health problems, click here.
Leslie Vandever—known as “Wren” to the readers of RheumaBlog, her personal blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis—is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.
· Rheumatoid Arthritis. (2013, July 11) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on March 5, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/basics/symptoms/con-20014868
· Rheumatoid Arthritis. (2012, Feb. 2) PubMed Health. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved on March 5, 2014 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001467/
· What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis? (n.d.) Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved on March 5, 2014 from http://www.arthritis.org/types-what-is-rheumatoid-arthritis.php
· Rheumatoid Arthritis. (2011, Aug. 1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on March 5, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/rheumatoid.htm