Diseases and Disorders

How to Live with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a progressive autoimmune disease which usually affects joints, especially the small joints of hands and feet as the primary site. Common symptoms include joint pain, morning stiffness, and easy fatiguability. If not controlled on time, the disease can later affect multiple internal organs as well. Hence, early treatment is an important step toward controlling the disease and prevent its complications. Living with RA poses multiple daily challenges, which can be tackled with some simple steps and precautions. 

Simple tips and suggestions to help RA patients lead a qualitative life

  1. The first thing that can help a RA patient to lead a qualitative life is the acceptance of the disease. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not preventable, so one should not continuously worry about the onset of the disease. Instead, think of necessary measures to control the disease and prevent further progression. 
  2. There is a need to create more awareness about the disease. Usually, middle-aged females are more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis. Most people have a misconception that ‘RA cannot affect an individual at such a young age’. But the truth is only osteoarthritis is common in the elderly, not RA. More awareness about the diseases will help a RA patient seek medical help on time.
  3. One should approach the management of RA in a stepwise manner. First step should focus on elimination of the pain. Later, use of painkillers or steroids should be stopped (maximum by 3-6 months). After that, the patient should keep continuing RA specific medicines (disease changing drugs) as per the doctor’s advice. Step-by-step approach with short-term goals helps in better management of the diseases.
  4. Regular intake of RA medications plays an important role in the treatment. RA specific medicines usually take three months to act. The treatment has to be restarted from the beginning every time, if the patient stops the tablets for even 10-14 days.
  5. Early diagnosis and early treatment with a rheumatologist can bring a vast difference. It can help in taking control over the disease on time. Starting the right drug at the right dose and at the right time can even help a RA patient achieve a drug free remission.
  6. RA patient should never take tablets without blood monitoring periodically. They also need to take flu and pneumococcal vaccines in consultation with a rheumatologist.
  7. Exercise is extremely important for every individual. It is beneficial for RA patients as well. The patient should be active and exercise regularly. He/she can also practice yoga or meditation. Exercises and yoga should be practiced with your doctor’s guidance only.
  8. Diet also plays an important role in the treatment of RA. Most people have many misconceptions about what to eat and avoid. One can take all milk products, fish, vegetables and fruits and all other healthy foods. It is better to avoid high-calorie foods, high sugar content, or a high cholesterol diet.
  9. Exposure to sunlight for a limited period is healthy for the body in various ways. Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D (which helps in better absorption of calcium from the diet consumed). Sunlight exposure is beneficial for RA patients as well. 
  10. If you have any doubts regarding the disease or you cannot tolerate medicines, then you must discuss it with your doctor immediately rather than stopping the medicines on your own.
  11. RA is a systemic issue which affects the joints initially, later can involve other organs like eyes, lung, blood vessels, etc. So, RA patients are at an increased risk of suffering from heart disease. One should control the disease activity adequately to prevent joint deformity and involvement of other organs (which can be life threatening).

Conclusion

The first thing that can help a RA patient to lead a qualitative life is the acceptance of the disease. It is important to know all the facts to manage this disease better, by Dr. S. Sham M.D (General Medicine), D. M (Rheumatology), Consultant Rheumatologist, Glenegales Global & Vijaya Hospitals, SHAM’s Rheumatic Care Centre, Chennai.

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