Before getting a formal diagnosis, some people living with rheumatoid arthritis second guess their achiness, swelling, and fatigue, believing the symptoms are all in their head.
Others may try and ignore the shooting pain caused by the often-debilitating disease for as long as they can, not wanting to be identified as someone who is sick with a chronic “invisible illness.”
Although over one million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, thanks to advancements in medicine getting diagnosed with this autoimmune condition doesn’t have to turn your world upside down and keep you from doing what you love.
Rheumatoid arthritis has no cure, and its exact cause continues to be unknown, but there are many ways you can start to manage your joint pain, lower your risk of long-term side effects, and help to prevent permanent joint damage.
Ways to treat rheumatoid arthritis
You can take a different number of steps to ease pain and slow the progression of the disease. Some of the most common rheumatoid arthritis treatment options include:
- Lifestyle changes
Some of the same tips your doctor probably shares during your annual wellness visit that help you maintain your health are the same tactics you can take to reduce your pain from your rheumatoid arthritis (and, even more important, prevent severe joint damage).
Eat the right foods: Start by incorporating more healthy anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. When what you eat is high in antioxidants (like blueberries, turmeric, nuts, and salmon), you give your body the nutrition it needs to manage your arthritis pain, improve your energy levels, and reduce inflammation. Similarly, what you don’t eat is every bit as important as what you do consume. Avoid triggering things—like alcohol, foods high in unhealthy fats (such as cheeses, red meat, and processed snacks), and stuff that’s got too much salt or sugar—that can make you feel worse and cause your symptoms to flare up.
Quit smoking: Worrying can make rheumatoid arthritis flare up and worsen symptoms. Find healthy ways to get your anxiety under control by doing relaxing activities you enjoy (like yoga, reading, or even fishing). Try to avoid situations that cause you to feel stress, and make sure you get enough sleep every night, too.
Manage your stress: Worrying can make rheumatoid arthritis flare up and worsen symptoms. Find healthy ways to get your anxiety under control by doing relaxing activities you enjoy (like yoga, reading, or even fishing). Try to avoid situations that cause you to feel stress, and make sure you get enough sleep every night, too.
Get some exercise every day: For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, leading a sedentary lifestyle often increases pain, causes fatigue, and makes you feel weak. Adding the right balance of regular physical activity to your daily routine will do more than just improve your mood. It can also help you to de-stress and enhance your overall joint health.
Watch your weight: When you have rheumatoid arthritis, it can be challenging to maintain your weight (or lose extra pounds). Having a healthy BMI may reduce your risk for additional problems associated with the autoimmune condition, like heart disease and stroke.
Stop smoking: Need a reason to snuff your cigarette habit? Smoking significantly raises your risk for complications if surgery is necessary for treating your rheumatoid arthritis.
To slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatologists sometimes recommend:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen
- disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), like methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine
In some cases, the best treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is surgery (such as joint replacement, arthrodesis, or synovectomy) to reduce pain and help you experience improved function. Your rheumatologist will help you determine if the time is right to explore surgical treatment to help you move better and get relief.
Get rheumatoid arthritis inflammation under control: the earlier, the better
Waiting too long and self-treating can make your rheumatoid arthritis worse. If you start a treatment plan to reduce inflammation soon after noticing symptoms, you stand a better chance at slowing the autoimmune disease’s progression and improving your quality of life more quickly.
You don’t have to live with joint pain. Talk with your primary care provider to discuss how Logansport Memorial Hospital’s rheumatologists can help you maintain flexibility and manage your pain with a personalized treatment plan.
Request an appointment online or call (574) 722-4331.
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