What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a long-term condition that is common in the hands, feet and wrists. Sufferers will experience pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints and there are times when the symptoms become worse. This is known as a flare-up. These are difficult to predict which makes it important for sufferers to manage the condition with the correct treatment.
Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis
Diagnosing the condition can prove difficult as many other conditions cause similar symptoms. As a result of this, specialists will rule out other conditions in order to diagnose the condition.
A specialist will begin by carrying out by asking specific questions relating to the pain and where the pain is experienced. They will also carry out a physical examination where they will check the affected joints and test the level of mobility.
In order to confirm the condition, your doctor might request for you to have blood tests as a way of identifying possible indications that the condition is present although there is no definitive blood test to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. To check for joint damage and inflammation, a number of imaging tests can be carried out. This will include X-rays and MRI scans.
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Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
There is no cure for the condition although a number of things can be done to help manage the condition. The treatment will differ between patients but the aim is to manage symptoms and deal with the pain as well as flare ups. This could involve a number of lifestyle changes, medication, supportive treatments and surgery.
There is Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs available and these work by blocking the chemicals that are released when the immune system begins to attack the joints, helping to reduce the damage. There are also biological treatments available that prevent chemicals in the blood from activating the immune system before it attacks joints.
Patients can also take painkillers to ease the pain while corticosteroids can be used to help reduce the pain, inflammation and stiffness in joints. There is also a range of supportive treatments available such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and podiatry. In some cases, surgery is required to restore movement in the joint although in some cases a joint replacement may be required.
Managing your rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that can affect people of different ages, but these days there is a range of effective treatments and management methods that can help you to control the disease and keep inflammation low to help reduce pain.
Effective pain management is one of the most important elements of making the condition more manageable. If you suffer from frequent flare-ups, it helps to know how to cope with these symptoms on an ongoing basis to stay in control and prevent it from affecting your quality of life, ability to work or take part in gentle exercise.
While it makes sense to work with your doctor to receive effective medical treatment, such as corticosteroid joint injections, many rheumatoid arthritis patients will experience a level of ongoing joint pain and stiffness. This is why you should take steps to help manage your pain using tried and tested pain management strategies.
Your doctor may suggest certain pain management strategies within your overall treatment plan, such as:
- Following a low inflammation diet
- Heat and cold compress packs
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Taking regular, gentle exercise
- Using the right medications
Depending on the level of the severity of your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, your doctor will be able to advise you on all these points, especially with the type and level of physical exercise you can comfortably tolerate without aggravating your condition.
Your doctor may recommend taking regular exercise that is easy on your joints such as taking up swimming, which is a non-weight-bearing exercise that is also good for your overall health.
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