What is it and what can you do about it?
Like a badass cowboy, running around shooting crazily at everybody, that is RA. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes joint inflammation and pain. It happens when the immune system doesn’t work properly and attacks the lining of the joints. The immune system mistakes the body’s cells for foreign invaders and releases inflammatory chemicals that attack those cells. In RA, it attacks the synovium, the tissue lining around a joint that produces a fluid to help the joint move smoothly. The inflamed synovium gets thicker and makes the joint area feel painful and tender and look red and swollen and moving the joint may be difficult.
Difference between RA and Osteo
The difference between RA and its cousin Osteo which was discussed in the last installment is causation. Osteo is also inflammation of the joints caused by injury, stress or wear, but RA is just an arbitrary decision by the autoimmune system that the healthy cells around a joint area are the enemy and they launch an attack by hitting it with inflammation, which is usually the initial healing component in any injury (yes, inflammation is good if you have it under control) but it is attacking healthy tissue.
What is the Immune System?
“The immune system is composed of a variety of different cell types and proteins. Each element performs a specific task aimed at recognizing and/or reacting against foreign material. FYI, The immune system is a wonderful collaboration between cells and proteins that work together to provide defense against infection. These cells and proteins do not form a single organ like the heart or liver. Instead, the immune system is dispersed throughout the body to provide rapid responses to infection (Figure 1). Cells travel through the bloodstream or in specialized vessels called lymphatics. Lymph nodes and the spleen provide structures that facilitate cell-to-cell communication.” (Data from Immune Deficiency Foundation)
One simple look tells you if there is RA at work, just look at the hands. Many times they are twisted and gnarled and stiff looking. My fingers are bent and stiff on both hands. My forefingers are so bent I can’t point straight.
Researchers aren’t sure why people develop RA. They believe these individuals may have certain genes that are activated by a trigger in the environment, such as a virus or bacteria, physical or emotional stress , or some other external factor. Regardless, it gives the body owner hell. I was diagnosed with it and they rxxed Prednisone, a drug that suppresses inflammation. The Adrenals naturally make cortisone, which is an anti-inflammatory, and while you take it your adrenals stop making it and when you quit taking it your body has hell. There are support groups for those hooked on it who try to get off and have unmitigated hell. I am one who can attest to that. Took me nearly a year to winnow down off of it.
More from Healthline
“Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain, inflammation, and damage throughout your body. The joint damage that RA causes usually happens on both sides of the body. So, if a joint is affected in one of your arms or legs, the same joint in the other arm or leg will probably be affected, too. This is one way that doctors distinguish RA from other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis (OA).re on PinterestTreatments work best when RA is diagnosed early, so it’s important to learn the signs. Read on to learn everything you want to know about RA, from types and symptoms to home remedies, diets, and other treatments.
RA is marked by symptoms of inflammation and pain in the joints. These symptoms and signs increase during periods known as flares or exacerbations. Other times are known as periods of remission — this is when symptoms can disappear completely. RA symptoms commonly affect joints in the hands, wrists, and knees, but can also affect tissues and organs throughout the body including the lungs, heart, and eyes.
Symptoms can include:
- pain or aching in more than one joint
- stiffness in more than one joint
- tenderness and swelling in more than one joint
- the same joint symptoms on both sides of the body
- loss of joint function and deformities
- low-grade fever
- loss of appetite
Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. It’s important not to ignore your symptoms, even if they come and go. Knowing the early signs of RA will help you and your healthcare provider better treat and manage it.
What can be done – a list of to do’s from Healthline:
Daily movement. Even when you don’t have time to exercise, try to make movement part of your everyday routine. Use the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Park in a spot that makes you walk a bit to enter a building. Take the longer way to a meeting in your office.
Balancing activity with rest. It’s important to try to stay physically active even during a flare, but rest is also especially important when RA is active and joints feel painful, swollen or stiff. Rest helps reduce inflammation and fatigue that can come with a flare. Taking breaks throughout the day protects joints and preserves energy.
Hot and cold treatments. Heat treatments, such as heat pads or warm baths, tend to work best for soothing stiff joints and tired muscles. Cold is best for acute pain and swollen joints. It can numb painful areas and reduce inflammation.
Topical products. These creams, gels or stick-on patches can ease the pain in a joint or muscle. Some contain the medicine that you can get in a pill, and others use ingredients that irritate your nerves to distract from the pain.
Stress Reduction and Complementary Therapies. There are different ways to relax and stop focusing on pain. They include meditation, deep breathing, and thinking about images in your mind that make you feel happy. Massage can help reduce pain, relax sore muscles and ease stress or anxiety. Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into the body along special points to relieve pain. If you don’t like needles, acupressure uses firm pressure instead.
Supplements. Studies show that curcumin/turmeric and omega-3 fish oil supplements may help with rheumatoid arthritis pain and morning stiffness. However, talk with a doctor before taking any supplement to discuss side effects and how it may affect other medicines you are taking.
Positive Attitude and Support System. Cultivate a network of friends, family members and co-workers who can help provide emotional support. Take time to do things that you enjoy to lift your mood, which can help relieve pain.
There you have it, a brief summary of one of the most tortuous diseases that is man’s burden
I am not a doctor, so I cannot and will not make more recommendations than to follow what is given above by the medical journals and stick with it. And you can note that the supplements are the same as those given in the previous blog for Osteoarthritis—curcumin/turmeric and omega-3 fish oil supplements. Next issue will be Fibromyalgia, another source of back and joint pain, with a totally different cause than either discussed so far.
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