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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Awareness Week

When you hear the word arthritis, you may think of your parents or grandparents and their aching joints. However, arthritis is a disease that is often incorrectly associated with age. The disease is far more complex than most people are aware of. With different variations, symptoms, and causes, arthritis can be a pain that many individuals aren’t prepared to deal with.

Did you know that more than 50 million adults are diagnosed with arthritis? The illness affects 1 in 5 adults over the age of 18. Additionally, 300,000 babies and children suffer from the disease, with 1 in 250 young children being afflicted. According to the Arthritis Foundation, Arthritis is leading cause of disability in America. While there are many forms of arthritis, we want to focus on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as we observe RA Awareness Week.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that involves the joints. The immune system is supposed to protect your body, producing internal inflammation to fight and prevent infections / diseases. However, with RA, the immune system goes awry and starts attacking the joints.

Common symptoms include:

  • Joint tenderness, swelling, and pain that last longer than 6 weeks
  • Multiple joints are affected
  • Joint stiffness in the morning that lasts longer than 30 minutes
  • Dryness and sensitivity in your eyes and mouth

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis are still unknown. Doctors have yet to learn what causes certain immune systems to attack the body. However, researchers agree that genetics, hormones, and the environment all play a role in the illness.

Living with RA: What You Should Know

If you believe you exhibit symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, it is important that you seek medical attention. Doctors will generally use blood tests, image tests, and physical exams to determine whether you have the disease. They will also review your personal medical history. If you were diagnosed with RA, below are some of the key facts you should know about.

Things to know about rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Early, aggressive treatments help – Catching RA and aggressively treating the condition can help prevent further joint damage and future pain. Often, doctors will prescribe “disease-modifying” medication to prevent RA from progressing.
  • Remission is possible – While the causes may be uncertain, rheumatoid arthritis can be reduced and contained. Doctors use a “treat-to-target” method to control the inflammation and damage to the joints. If treated early and appropriately, the disease can go into remission, with only a few joints still being affected.
  • It can play you at greater risk for heart disease – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Lower the risks by monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure, eating well, and regularly exercising.
  • Exercise can be the best medicine – RA can leave you feeling tired, defeated, and in pain. However, exercising can strengthen your joints and release endorphins to lift your mood. Listen to your body and choose activities that accommodate your needs.
  • You may not show physical symptoms – Rheumatoid arthritis greatly affects you internally, meaning you may not show signs of injury externally. Others may not understand the pain you are in or what you are enduring. You should share your experience and raise awareness.

For more information on Whittier Hospital Medical Center and dealing with arthritis, contact us today.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.