Seniors who deal with Rheumatoid Arthritis know the pain in their joints all too well. They know the difference between regular aches and pains and a flare up. They also know that the telltale stiffness in their joints is going to make their day a little bit worse. This condition is hard to live with, as movement is difficult and often too painful to manage. Many sufferers of Rheumatoid Arthritis reach for over-the-counter medications to help with their symptoms, but there are alternatives. The very first thing that any senior needs is to understand the condition so that they can make informed decisions about how to deal with it. Let’s take a look.
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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that has an affect on over 1 million individuals in the US. Issues with the immune system occur when the cells in the body aren't working correctly and attack healthy cells. When it’s specific to Rheumatoid Arthritis, the joints are affected when the cells attack their coating, making it thicker. While this sounds like it would be ideal, the thickening of the joint coating is detrimental to the joint itself. When this isn’t managed correctly, Rheumatoid Arthritis will aggravate and extend the tendons of the joint, causing misalignment.
Who Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect?
While Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect anyone, it’s more commonly found in 75% of seniors who are women. It can occur at any age, but Rheumatoid Arthritis is most commonly found after the age of 40. It gets worse over time, and faster if it’s not managed correctly. The cause behind it is currently unknown, but it’s thought to be hereditary
Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Different sorts of joint inflammation causes stiffness in the joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis has a similar stiffness, with even the smallest joints in the hands and feet being affected, too. These joints can swell up and feel hot when the skin is touched, which can be agonizing for the sufferer. Rheumatoid Arthritis can also affect the elbows, knees, hips, wrists and even the lower legs.
One of the first indications of Rheumatoid Arthritis is early morning stiffness in the joints. Any joint pain can cause morning stiffness, of course, but for Rheumatoid Arthritis, it can mean the pain lasts for longer. Other signs can include high fever, a lack of energy, dry mouth and dry eyes. Sufferers may even experience blisters under the skin of the elbows and the hands, which can be painful.
Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis can be quite hard to diagnose as it manifests ambiguously. There is no direct test that can confirm a Rheumatoid Arthritis, but specialists can use a range of diagnostics to confirm it. These can include blood tests to check for anti-CCP antibodies and the rheumatoid factor, CT sweeps and MRI scans. These can all determine if the joints are in trouble.
Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are plenty of ways to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, which can all go a long way in helping you to deal with it. Here are some of the best ways to deal with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Doctors can prescribe corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen to help with the symptoms. There are always new medications being trialed for Rheumatoid Arthritis called biologics. These offer a targeted response to the inflammation instead of inhibiting the body’s natural immune response.
Most of the time, occupational therapists can help with the pain that Rheumatoid Arthritis leaves you in. They can help you to learn the effective ways that you can carry out your day to day tasks, ensuring that the stress on your joints is as minimal as possible.
Surgery is a last resort for many people but it can be the best option. It can correct any deformities caused by the swelling. Some people may require arthroplasty - which is used for the total replacement of the joints themselves. Tendon repair surgery is another option, and when the joint cannot be removed, it can be fixed instead.
Lastly, some of the lifestyle changes that patients make can help those with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Flare ups happen, and when they happen to you, you should rest as much as possible. Exerting too much pressure on the joints that are affected can make the pain worse and exacerbate the inflammation. When there are no flare-ups, exercise can really help to keep the joints supple and well-maintained. This will help to promote mobility and general good health.