Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common type of arthritis. The chronic disease usually affects the joints in the hands and feet. Unlike osteoarthritis, which results from normal wear-and-tear, RA attacks the joints. This causes painful swelling that deforms the joints and erodes the bones.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the immune system attacks healthy tissue by mistake. In addition to joint problems, RA causes fever and fatigue throughout the body. It can also affect the heart, lungs, blood, nerves, eyes, and skin.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Stiff and swollen joints are the most common sign of rheumatoid arthritis. Morning joint stiffness often lasts into the day. Bumps of tissue called rheumatoid nodules may appear under the skin. Other symptoms include fever, fatigue and weight loss.
RA generally strikes between the ages of 30 and 60. For most people, rheumatoid symptoms develop gradually. For some, however, the disease moves rapidly.
The early stage affects only small joints in the fingers and toes. As it progresses, rheumatoid symptoms spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, hips, elbows, shoulders, and neck.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Neck Pain
Rheumatoid arthritis neck pain results from joint damage caused by the disease. Some people experience mild neck discomfort, while others have headaches, stiffness, and pain that radiates into the arms.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Chest Pain
Severe RA may affect other parts of the body, including the heart. Inflammation in the heart’s lining may cause rheumatoid arthritis chest pain or shortness of breath. People with RA are more likely to develop clogged arteries, and this could lead to heart attack.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Rheumatoid arthritis has no cure, but medications can reduce inflammation, relieve pain and slow joint damage. Most RA drugs have serious side effects, so doctors prescribe weaker drugs at first. As the disease worsens, they prescribe stronger medications or a combination of drugs.
Many arthritis sufferers benefit from exercise and physical therapy. Therapists teach patients how to keep their joints flexible. This makes everyday tasks easier.
Surgery is reserved for the most serious cases of arthritis. Joint fusion or replacement and tendon repair are used to correct deformities and reduce pain.
Natural Arthritis Treatments
Surgery and medications carry risks such as bleeding, infection, and unpleasant side effects. Many people prefer to address their symptoms with natural treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.
Fish oil is thought to reduce the pain and stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis. Plant oils, such as borage and evening primrose, also relieve arthritis symptoms. Natural remedies may interfere with prescription drugs, so patients should consult their doctors before taking natural supplements.
Tai chi is another alternative treatment for RA. This ancient Chinese practice involves gentle movements and breathing exercises that relax the body and reduce pain. To avoid further joint damage, those who seek this type of therapy should consult with a qualified instructor.