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                  For Your Health
                        By:  Julie Millican, RN

          

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The term RA refers to Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Recently, commercials have advertised various drugs to help with this disease.  RA is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the lining of the joints. It can also affect major organs and the skin and nerves.  The joints, usually in the wrists, knees, or hands, become warm, swell, and inflamed.  Also, both sides of the body, such as hands, can be affected at the same time.

RA is more common in women 30 to 60 years of age who smoke or have a family history of RA.  The inflammation can destroy cartilage and bone and deform the affected joints.  Nodules (lumps) may form under the skin and in internal organs.  Pregnancy can mediate RA but the reason is unknown.  RA and its symptoms will likely return after a woman gives birth.

Symptoms to inform your doctor of include: morning joint stiffness, swelling of joints, and firm lumps under the skin. A low-grade fever may also occur.

There is no single test for RA.  X-rays can help to diagnose RA.  Tests for rheumatoid factor (RF) and other blood tests may help to make the diagnosis of RA.  Treatment should be started as soon as possible and includes medication and exercise to strengthen muscles around the joints and keep them moving.  There are drugs used in combination for RA. Sometimes joint replacement (surgery) is helpful.  Arthroscopic surgery is less invasive to visualize and repair damage.  Over the counter supplements may help, but check with a doctor fist.  Some foods seem to affect RA and seeing a dietician may be part of one’s care plan.

Monitoring by a doctor and being an informed patient about the disease can assist an individual to keep active and manage pain.

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”                                                                                        Joshua 1:9