New Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis ? / What You Need To Know

New Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis

New Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis

What You need to Know If You Have a New Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis

  • What is Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Medications to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Importance of  your diet
  • Lifestyle changes that help ( exercise, quit smoking)
  • How to find the right  Rheumatologist
  • On- line resources
  • The importance of support
  • Hope for your future

Below is some basic information about Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It is a chronic disease in which your body’s immune system attacks your joints and sometimes other organs in your body. The disease  causes inflammation in your joints and, if not treated, destruction of the cartilage  in your joints. It can also attack some of your organs. For this reason, the current medical community believes that early treatment is best because early treatment can prevent permanent joint damage. It is extremely important that you seek treatment from a Rheumatologist as soon as you have a Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis affects 1.3 million people in the US. The disease usually begins between ages 30-50 and affects more women than men. It can, of course, begin at any age.

  • Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Early symptoms are described here

On-going symptoms include:

Flu-like symptoms  ( low-grade fevers, severe fatigue and loss of appetite.

Loss of weight is not uncommon

Morning stiffness that lasts longer that 30 minutes

Pain, stiffness and swelling in joints

If your disease progresses even some organs such as your heart can be affected.

  • Medications to treat RA

There are many drugs used to treat RA, but none of them cure the disease. Until someone finds a cure for RA, the drug treatment goals are to reduce disease activity and symptoms and to put the disease in remission. There are currently 4 classifications of drugs used to treat RA:

  1. Nonsteroidal Anti-InflammatoryDrugs
  2. Disease- Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs
  3. Biologic Respose Modifiers
  4. Corticosteroids

All of these drugs have side effects. For this reason, you need to be treated by a Rheumatologist who can set up a treatment plan specifically for you. You need a Rheumatologist who will treat you as a team member and involve you in designing your treatment plan.

  • Importance of your diet

A healthy diet  is extremely important because you need to keep your body as healthy as possible and do what you can to support your immune system. A diet high in fruits and vegetables and low fat proteins is important. Sweets and processed foods should be kept to a minimum. You also need to drink a lot of water so your joints stay hydrated. There are some foods that seem to exacerbate RA symptoms such as coffee, sweets and alcohol. You can find more detail about the importance of your diet here.

  • Lifestyle Changes

There are two lifestyle changes that are very important to your health if you have RA.

  1. Exercise: Have you ever heard the phrase “Use it or loose it.” ? If you do not stay active, you will loose a lot of function in damaged joints. If you are currently exercising, please keep it up. You should, however, seek some professional advice. A Physical Therapist is trained to teach you exercises that will not hurt your joints. Most Physical Therapists will tell you not to do any exercise that hurts. Rest that joint and try again a different day. Cardio exercise is also extremely important because RA can attack your heart. Walking is a good low impact cardio exercise.
  2. If you are a smoker, you need to quit smoking.
  3. The jury is still out on alcohol. Some physicians think alcohol in moderation (4-5 times per week) may help RA. On the other hand, some small studies have indicated that alcohol may increase the severity of your symptoms.
  • How to find the right Rheumatologist

See this post for information on finding the right Rheumatologist

  • On-line resources

There are many on-line resources that provide you with  information about Rheumatoid Arthritis. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1.  The Arthritis Foundation- Lots of good resources and articles
  2. The Mayo Clinic- Go to their disease source and choose Rheumatoid Arthritis
  3. National Institutes of Health- Latest Research on RA
  4. WebMD-  Some good slide shows
  5. Health Monitor- Lots of fun articles on RA

All of these sites are easy to find and bookmark for future reference.

  •  The importance of support

I can’t stress this enough. You need to gently get your family on board by educating them about RA so they have some understanding of what you are going through and are able to be supportive  when you need them.

You also need a few friends who have RA that you can communicate with who understand what you are experiencing.

  1. The Arthritis Foundation has local support groups in some communities
  2. There are also RA support groups you can join on-line.
  • Hope for the future

Do remember that as you go down the path RA takes you that there is support out there. There is also a lot of active research concerning RA so there is hope that a cure will be found. There appears to be several large studies currently being conducted in the UK.  I will do everything I can to let you know about any new research.

References

http://www.healthcentral.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/c/9937/57536/letter

http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/rheumatoid-arthritis

http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/actions-to-take-with-ra

http://www.arthritistoday.org/tools-and-resources/slideshows/living-with-ra.php

http://www.healthmonitor.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/basics-treatment/written-article/7-ways-handle-your-new-ra-diagnosis

 

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