Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition characterized by chronic and systemic inflammation that primarily targets the synovial joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

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RA is classically symmetric, and if poorly controlled leads to joint destruction because of bone and cartilage erosion, which ultimately results in joint deformity. People who respond poorly to medical intervention tend to progress to a significant disability of the locomotor system within two decades.

The condition is quite debilitating, and it is not easy for those affected. Management is lifelong and may have significant impacts on one’s daily routine activities.

As a result, lifestyle adaptations may become a crucial aspect of living and coping with the disease. There are several things that one can do to alleviate the disease burden, which includes leading a healthy lifestyle, regular check-ups, and thorough self-care.

Leading a healthy lifestyle

For those affected by RA, it is of utmost importance that they maintain a balanced and healthy diet and get regular exercise.

The two recommendations hold for everyone. However, when affected by chronic and progressive conditions, it is imperative to be savvier with regards to one’s health to slow down disease evolution, where possible.

Exercise is of special importance because it aids in weight reduction, which is a parameter that one may need to control due to the direct proportionality between weight increase and joint strain.

Not only does exercise facilitate weight loss, but it strengthens the muscles that support our joints, augments joint mobility, and it also helps to reduce levels of stress, thereby supporting general wellbeing.

Low-impact exercises, such as cycling and swimming are great, as they reduce the likelihood of exacerbating activity-related joint discomfort.

A physical therapist or sports medicine specialist may be able to offer advice to patients who wish to participate in a sport or physical activity but require modifications or assistive devices because of rheumatoid arthritis.

Regular check-ups

Owing to the chronicity of the condition, it is important to maintain regular contact with primary care physicians, as well as all other health care professionals involved in the therapy. This is vital because thorough disease control can be ascertained, and where necessary adaptations can be made to tailor to the individual needs of the patient.

The Disease Activity Score (DAS), which is a measurement used by clinicians to monitor RA disease activity, should be followed closely to help guide decisions about disease management.

Thorough self-care

The importance of self-care cannot be stressed enough. In addition to leading a healthy lifestyle through diet, exercise and rest, one must also ensure to take their medications as prescribed and always discuss with the health care provider any concerns that may arise.

Being adequately informed about the medications and taking them as instructed is crucial. Proper administration of medications aids in the slowing of disease progression and relieves RA-associated symptoms.

Taking responsibility for one’s health is important for everyone, especially those who may be affected by long-term conditions.

Being in control means taking the necessary steps to lead a healthy lifestyle, and maintaining regular health checks while doing all within one’s power to keep positive, prevent accidents and minimize the chances of developing other ailments. A good example of the latter control is getting the annual flu vaccine to reduce the chance of acquiring the flu.

Staying informed about one’s disease is also important, as one can take additional measures to help oneself in concert with health care providers.

Keeping track of exacerbating factors is crucial, as failing to rest joints when necessary not only worsens the pain but may increase joint inflammation and cause significant damage. Therefore, education is key, and following through with all of the above can ensure that those affected by RA can lead a near-normal life with relatively decent quality.

Sources

Further Reading

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2020

Dr. Damien Jonas Wilson

Written by

Dr. Damien Jonas Wilson

Dr. Damien Jonas Wilson is a medical doctor from St. Martin in the Carribean. He was awarded his Medical Degree (MD) from the University of Zagreb Teaching Hospital. His training in general medicine and surgery compliments his degree in biomolecular engineering (BASc.Eng.) from Utrecht, the Netherlands. During this degree, he completed a dissertation in the field of oncology at the Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Wilson currently works in the UK as a medical practitioner.

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