Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA, is a joint disease characterized by inflammation and pain. According to a study published in Rheumatology International, the condition affects women three times more often. One of the most difficult things about treating rheumatoid arthritis is that this autoimmune disease does not develop in the same way in every patient. Some people will be able to get rid of their symptoms completely, while others will get worse.
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Despite all the research, people with severe rheumatoid arthritis, joint damage, and joint damage that slows down over time remain some medical mysteries. John J., professor of internal medicine and rheumatology at Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “The first two or three times I go and meet someone, I don’t know how serious it is,” Kush said.
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But the good news is that in 2021, treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are better than ever. “There are great treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, and most patients can have a completely normal life with medication,” says Dr. Vinicius Dominguez, MD, a Daytona Beach, Fla.-based rheumatologist and consultant for CreakyJoints, a medical care and education company. , an advocacy and research organization for people with arthritis and rheumatism. Here are five important things to consider about the progression of the disease:
- The number of swollen and painful joints you have is an indicator of the severity of the disease.
The more joints that are painful and swollen, the more severe the disease may become, says Dr. Kush. Joint pain and swelling are signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatologists consider this a very important way to measure the severity of the disease.
Your doctor should examine your joints in your hands, feet, shoulders, hips, elbows, and other joints to see how many of them are causing problems. Symmetrical symptoms, such as the same swollen joint on both sides of the body, are a sign of rheumatoid arthritis, Kush said.
Dr. Dominguez added that traditional morning stiffness and joint swelling, which are symptoms of RA, should be discussed with a rheumatologist as soon as possible. “These are signs of active rheumatoid arthritis, and when they’re present, they allow doctors to be aggressive with treatment early or to switch to a different drug if symptoms worsen.”
- Your lifestyle is more sedentary and less active
Regular physical activity is important for everyone, but especially for people with RA. Studies have shown that regular cardiovascular exercise and weight training can significantly improve daily functioning without worsening rheumatoid arthritis. Regular physical activity has many health benefits, including improved muscle strength and bone and joint health, which can help ease your aches and pains. However, due to severe pain and fatigue, which are symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, rest is needed to restore the body. But you can’t let “facilitation” become a way of life. A sedentary lifestyle eventually leads to increased pain, fatigue, weakness, and reduced quality of life.
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Regular exercise has another life-enhancing benefit: it helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease in people with rheumatoid arthritis is more common in people with RA than in the general population, so it’s important to take good care of your ticker. “It’s heart disease, not heart disease,” Dominguez said. “If you have RA, it’s important to talk to your primary care physician or cardiologist to monitor your risk factors, such as high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.”
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- Your doctor is unable to fully assess new symptoms that may occur with telemedicine.
In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with rheumatoid arthritis can’t always get to a doctor’s office for a physical exam. But telemedicine or telehealth appointments, which are far better than no contact with health care professionals at all, may not detect disease progression beyond an in-person visit.
Dominguez said rheumatologists should notice joint swelling and warmth to the touch during office consultations — signs of active inflammation — but the severity of those symptoms may not be apparent on a computer screen. “The relationship between doctors and patients should be better if we don’t physically examine them,” Dominguez said. Be sure to note how your joints feel when you wake up, how stiff they are in the morning, how long they last, whether you can make a fist first thing in the morning, and whether you see any redness, she says. , hot or swollen joints. “These are the main symptoms of worsening RA,” he says.
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- The results of imaging analysis help to draw a picture
X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds are tests that help monitor and detect the severity of joint and cartilage damage. Bone erosion and cartilage breakdown can occur rapidly in the first two years of rheumatoid arthritis, and the damage continues over time.
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- Some daily activities are difficult
Pay attention to how you really feel. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the few diseases in which a subjective measure of a patient’s mood is the best predictor of how well a person will respond to treatment and how likely the disease will progress. Physicians can measure symptom severity using both the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index (HAQ) and the Rheumatoid Arthritis Quality of Life (RAQoL) questionnaire.