Do you live with pain and stiffness in your joints, especially in the morning? When it rains is it worse for you? You could be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The classic symptoms of RA are tender and swollen joints.
The morning is usually the time you experience stiffness in your joints. You also may experience intense fatigue. This disease can also change your daily activity.
If you are living with this disease, what can you do to improve your symptoms, and improve your life? Let’s first start by understanding, what is RA?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing damage, pain and swelling.
The damage usually starts in the lining of the smaller joints like the fingers and the toes. It can progress to larger joints like the ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders and hips. Over time, if the inflammation is not controlled, it will cause deformity and alteration of function in that joint.
How is RA diagnosed?
In the early stages of the disease, it can be difficult to diagnose, especially because it mimics so many other diseases. So it is important to tell your doctor about all of the symptoms you notice, and get annual blood tests so that the combination can help with the diagnosis.
The blood tests most commonly done are for elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate or sed rate, as well as for rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinate d peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies.
Since RA is an autoimmune disease, the sed rate gives an indication of inflammation in the body. The rheumatoid factor test measures its amount in your blood. High levels of rheumatoid factor can indicate autoimmune disease.
What can you do to feel better?
Most people want to start with the most non-invasive choices first. Strengthening exercises can help the muscles around the joints become stronger. Make sure you work with an exercise expert to make sure you don’t cause damage to the joints, especially ones that are currently inflamed.