How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect The Entire Body
Like many autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis typically waxes and wanes. Most people with rheumatoid arthritis experience periods when their symptoms worsen separated by periods in which the symptoms improve. With successful treatment, symptoms may even go away completely .
Although rheumatoid arthritis can have many different symptoms, joints are always affected. Rheumatoid arthritis almost always affects the joints of the hands , wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and/or feet. The larger joints, such as the shoulders, hips, and jaw, may be affected. The vertebrae of the neck are sometimes involved in people who have had the disease for many years. Usually at least two or three different joints are involved on both sides of the body, often in a symmetrical pattern. The usual joint symptoms include the following:
These symptoms may keep someone from being able to carry out normal activities. General symptoms include the following:
Support For People With Ra
Receiving a diagnosis of RA can render people feeling overwhelmed and lonely. If possible, they should find emotional and physical support from family and friends as they learn to navigate life with a chronic condition.
Individuals may also find it valuable to reach out to others living with RA and learn from their experiences.
Many hospitals and nonprofit groups, such as the Arthritis Foundation, provide online and in-person support groups. At the meetings, people with RA can connect with others and share information and insights without pressure or embarrassment.
Youre Overdoing The Wrong Exercises Putting More Stress On Your Knee Joints
Although everyone with osteoarthritis is different, Halpern says that exercises that tend to aggravate knee osteoarthritis are deep squats, lunges, and any movement that pounds on the joint. Additionally, some people with osteoarthritis are simply too active, says Wayne Johnson, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Lawton, Oklahoma. For example, runners might need to cut back on running, while people who do other active things like gardening, for example should spread out their activities instead of trying to do it all in one day. Talk to your doctor about what types of exercise are safe for you given the severity of your osteoarthritis and the amount of pain you experience.
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Whats The Big Difference With Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis happens through wear and tear, which is why its more common in people aged 50+. By contrast, RA is a disorder of the immune system, where the body starts to attack its own tissues. This leads to inflammation, which can stretch the knee capsule and degrade the lining cartilage. In some cases, osteoarthritis follows from that.
Ra Is A Constant Companion
The thing to understand about RA is that it is always there and it is a constant companion for most of us. Some days might better than others, but most of us have pain and symptoms every single day.
I have pain every day. Some days, it is mild, and I can do a lot not as much as someone without RA, but a lot more than usual. Even on the days where it the pain and fatigue are bad, I try to put on my best face and deal with it because I dont have a choice.
There are times where it seems I am flaring all the time and some flares seem to last days or even weeks. And in all these nine years of living with this disease, I have had a handful of flares that have gone on for months.
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Ra Affects Every Part Of You And Your Life
There are days where my RA feels like I have sprained and injured every single joint in my body my ankles, wrists, knees, fingers, toes, ribs, shoulders and hips. There is not enough anti-inflammatory medication or a big enough heating pad to give me relief.
Then there is fatigue unrelenting fatigue all the time. I need more coffee to wake me up, and no matter how much sleep I get, I cant seem to get enough. I cant sleep my life away, and I wish I didnt need as much rest as I do. But I keep moving forward like a functioning zombie who manages to hide amongst the human race.
My rheumatologist isnt a fan of prescribing strong pain medications, but she knows me well enough to know that I am struggling. I put up with a lot when it comes to my RA symptoms and pain and most people in my life have no idea of my ordeal.
Id wish I could say I am proud of the fact that I hide having RA so well, but I am not proud of it. In fact, I wish I could speak up but speaking up changes everything.
Speaking up at least from my perspective would mean that I would be viewed as incapable at my job, as a mother, and as a human being. So, I dont and neither do others with RA because society has associated a stigma with RA, chronic illness, and pain.
Differences Between Ra And Oa
Although symptoms of knee RA may be similar to those of osteoarthritis, there are several distinct differences.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease caused by wear and tear, and is usually localized to a specific joint. Over time, knee cartilage wears away, causing bone-on-bone rubbing and pain.
RA, on the other hand, is a chronic autoimmune disease that typically impacts multiple joints. It may eventually attack the knee joint, causing pain and swelling.
There are several additional differences that are important to know. OA typically arises in one side of the body. With RA, however, both knees would typically be swollen symmetrically.
In addition, OA pain is usually sharp and worsens later in the day after periods of prolonged activity. But with RA, pain and stiffness are often worse in the morning, triggered by lack of movement.
One myRAteam member with both conditions summed up her experience: OA pain feels like my joint is on fire, achy, and makes snap, crackle, pop sounds. The pain comes and goes, and is worse when I do too much. RA pain, on the other hand, feels like my joint is literally going to explode from a buildup of pressure. Its a sharp, nonstop pain inside the joint that sometimes freezes it .
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Medical History And Physical Examination
After listening to your symptoms and discussing your general health and medical history, your doctor will examine your foot and ankle.
Skin. The location of callouses indicate areas of abnormal pressure on the foot. The most common location is on the ball of the foot . If the middle of the foot is involved, there may be a large prominence on the inside and bottom of the foot. This can cause callouses.
Foot shape. Your doctor will look for specific deformities, such as bunions, claw toes, and flat feet.
Flexibility. In the early stages of RA, the joints will typically still have movement. As arthritis progresses and there is a total loss of cartilage, the joints become very stiff. Whether there is motion within the joints will influence treatment options.
Tenderness to pressure. Although applying pressure to an already sensitive foot can be very uncomfortable, it is critical that your doctor identify the areas of the foot and ankle that are causing the pain. By applying gentle pressure at specific joints your doctor can determine which joints have symptoms and need treatment. The areas on the x-ray that look abnormal are not always the same ones that are causing the pain.
Ra Diet And Other Therapy
There is little scientific research on the role of herbs, natural products, and nutritional supplements in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. High-dose fish oil has been shown in small studies to reduce rheumatoid arthritis disease activity, and in some cases, fish oil supplementation may allow patients to discontinue NSAIDs. People with rheumatoid arthritis are using turmeric with varying degrees of success in reducing inflammation.
Other dietary changes that some people with rheumatoid arthritis can find helpful including increasing hydration for the dry mouth of SjÃ¶gren’s syndrome, increasing fish intake for fish oil supplementation to reduce inflammation, and taking anti-inflammatory medications with food to avoid stomach irritation . As described above, some research has suggested that a fish-grain diet can decrease the chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis while a Western high-fat diet might increase the chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis. There are currently no particular foods that are universally recommended that people with rheumatoid arthritis avoid, but dietary discretion is individualized based on patients’ own experiences.
A variety of complementary approaches may be effective in relieving pain. These include acupuncture and massage.
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When To Seek Treatment
The following are general guidelines of when to seek treatment for your RA progression:
When you first suspect symptoms Regularly during the first few years of diagnosis If you suspect you are experiencing progressive rheumatoid arthritis If you feel your condition is worsening in any way or new symptoms appear
How Long Do The Benefits From Cortisone Shots Last
Improvements in knee pain in from cortisone shots typically peak around two weeks and can persist for up to 24 weeks.6 After 24 weeks knee pain tends to return to its original intensity.2 Its also worth noting that after the first few weeks of treatment patients typically see very little benefits from cortisone shots compared with a placebo .
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Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Knee
Knee rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include:
- Knee discomfort, pain or tenderness that worsens when exercising, standing or walking
- Reduced range of movement
- Stiffness that is worse in the mornings and during cold weather your knee joint may also become locked ie when you cant fully bend or straighten your knee joint
- Warmth in and around your knee
- Weakness in your knees when you bear weight on them
In addition to symptoms that specifically affect your knee, you may also notice other symptoms including:
- A dry mouth
- Warmth in and around your knee
- Weakness in your knees ie feeling that your knees will buckle
Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Knee: Symptoms And Treatments
More than 1.3 million people in the U.S. have rheumatoid arthritis , which typically starts in the hands and fingers and can later progress to the knees. The resulting joint stiffness, pain, and swelling affecting the knees can restrict movement, potentially impacting quality of life.
To learn more about knee RA, myRAteam spoke with rheumatologist Dr. Iris Navarro-Millán, assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and a National Institutes of Health -funded rheumatology researcher specializing in knee RA.
Because knee RA shares some symptoms with knee osteoarthritis , another form of arthritis, making a diagnosis can be challenging, Dr. Navarro-Millán said. When people with RA start experiencing knee pain, we tend to jump quickly to say, You probably also have osteoarthritis. But it’s very common for with RA to have both.
Many members of myRAteam report late-stage knee pain. Ive had RA for 10 years, but only experienced pain in my knees in the last one or two years, explained one member.
Getting a correct diagnosis, however, has been frustrating for some. My doctor said I dont have RA because its in my knees, yet everything I’ve read said that RA can attack the knees, one member said. Another member added, My rheumatologist was way too quick to assume my knee pain was fibromyalgia and OA, not RA. Im getting a second opinion.
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What Happens When Someone Has Jia
People with JIA may have pain and stiffness that can change from day to day or from morning to afternoon. These symptoms can come and go. When the condition becomes more active and the symptoms worsen, it’s known as a “flare” or a “flare-up.”
JIA often causes only minor problems, but in some cases it can cause serious joint damage or limit growth. Although JIA mostly affects the joints and surrounding tissues, it can also affect other organs, like the eyes, liver, heart, and lungs.
JIA is a condition, meaning it can last for months and years. Sometimes the symptoms just go away with treatment, which is known as remission. Remission may last for months, years, or a person’s lifetime. In fact, many teens with JIA eventually enter full remission with little or no permanent joint damage.
But Wait Ra Gets More Complicated: Symptoms And Causes
Rheumatoid arthritis can be complex. The specific reasons why some people develop it and others dont remain unknown. However, the medical community does know what may increase the risk and likelihood of developing the disease, such as having more levels of whats called rheumatoid factor in your blood .
In addition, while RA is considered a chronic condition meaning it has no cure and will never fully go away how severe the symptoms get differ from person to person, and flares may wax and wane. For example, when the disease is more active , symptoms become worse. When symptoms disappear, either on their own or with treatment, patients go into remission.3
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Since RA is an autoimmune disorder that attacks ones own body tissues, researchers are focusing on why these mistakes occur.5
One factor that may play a role in the development of RA is that many people with the condition have higher levels of an antibody in their immune system: enter rheumatoid factor or RF for short. Low levels of this antibody can be present in healthy individuals or in people with other inflammatory conditions, but individuals with RA have higher levels of RF, as well as another antibody, the anti-CCP antibody. Both antibodies are signs of hyperactive immunity doctors use them to help confirm the diagnosis of RA.
Despite the unknowns about the causes of RA, there are some risk factors for developing this condition:6-10
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What Are Causes And Risk Factors Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known. Many risk factors are involved in the abnormal activity of the immune system that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis. These risk factors include
- genetics ,
- hormones , and
- possibly infection by a bacterium or virus.
Other environmental factors known to increase the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis include
- silica exposure, and
- periodontal disease.
Medical scientists have shown that alterations in the microbiome exist in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Emerging research shows that the microbiome has an enormous influence on our health, immune system, and many diseases, even those previously not directly linked to the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have shown different kinds of bacteria in the intestines of people with rheumatoid arthritis than in those who do not have rheumatoid arthritis. However, it remains unknown how this information can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment is probably not as simple as replacing missing bacteria, but this may explain why some individuals with rheumatoid arthritis feel better with various dietary modifications.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
Rheumatoid arthritis can be scary, and not only because of the symptoms but because of the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Don’t let this stop you from taking action if you suspect you have the disease.
The advantage of an early diagnosis is that it allows you early treatment. Simply put, the sooner you take disease-modifying medications, the better your long-term outlook is.
This is especially true if you have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis. Having a sibling or parent with rheumatoid arthritis nearly triples your risk of the disease, while having a second-degree relative doubles your risk.
Possible RA symptoms that warrant a trip to the healthcare provider include:
- Pain, swelling, or stiffness in one or more joints
- Joints that are red or warm to the touch
- Regular joint stiffness in the morning
- Difficulty moving a joint or doing daily activities
- An episode of increased joint pain and stiffness lasting for more than three days
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What Treatment Options Are Available For Ra
There are medications that help manage RA symptoms and control inflammation, such as NSAIDs, corticosteroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, and biologics. However, there are non-medication treatment options as well. Non-pharmacologic treatment options include rest, exercise, physical and occupational therapies, dietary management, and, in some cases, surgery.
What Are Bone Spurs
Bone spurs are of two basic types. One is the kind that arises near a joint with osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. In this situation, the cartilage has been worn through and the bone responds by growing extra bone at the margins of the joint surface. These âspursâ carry the formal name âosteophytes.â They are common features of the osteoarthritic shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle. Removing these osteophytes is an important part of joint replacement surgery but removing them without addressing the underlying arthritis is usually not effective in relieving symptoms.
The second type of bone spur is the kind that occurs when the attachment of ligaments or tendons to bone become calcified. This can occur on the bottom of the foot around the Achilles Tendon and in the coroacoacromial ligament of the shoulder. These spurs often look impressive on X-rays, but because they are in the substance of the ligaments rarely cause sufficient problems to merit excision.
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Can Arthritis Cause Numbness
Numbness is often a symptom of nerve involvement. For instance, numbness in the arm may be related to nerve irritation in the neck. In such a situation, turning or bending the head to the involved side may increase the symptoms. For example, a pinched nerve in the right side of the neck may cause numbness in the arm and hand when a person attempts to look back over the right shoulder. If nerve irritation becomes more severe, the arm and hand may become weak. A physical examination X-rays and an MRI of the neck and electrodiagnostic tests may be useful in establishing the diagnosis.