Rheumatoid Arthritis Facts You Need to Know
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is caused when the immune system (the body’s defense system) is not working properly– it is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. The body’s disordered immune response attacks the joints, and causes pronounced pain and swelling.
RA affects joints on both sides of the body, such as both hands, both wrists, or both knees. This symmetry helps to set it apart from other types of arthritis. Over time, RA can affect other body parts and systems, from your eyes to your heart, lungs, skin, blood vessels, and more.
But there may be less obvious issues associated with RA that caregivers need to know about:
RA affects mood.
It makes sense that those who live with a chronic illness or disability may occasionally feel down or depressed about their health status. But new research shows a stronger-than-expected link between serious and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). So be prepared to see changes in the person you are caring for. Try not to take is personally, and consult a psychiatrist or neurologist as indicated.
Diet makes a difference.
While there is no specific “diet” that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), should follow, researchers have identified certain foods that can help control inflammation. Many of them are found in the so-called Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fish, vegetables and olive oil, among other staples. Processed food contribute to inflammation and should be limited.
More than just tired.
Overexertion can trigger rheumatoid arthritis inflammation, increase fatigue, and trigger a rheumatoid arthritis flare. some of the latest research on fatigue shows that fatigue is caused by both physical and psychological factors. Chemicals called cytokines have been shown to promote inflammation and also cause fatigue in people with RA. New drugs, called biologics, may prevent the release of cytokines and protect against fatigue.
Break out the face masks.
Biologics increase risk of infection. There’s little question that suppressing the immune system with medicine – essential for controlling RA – is a significant cause of infections. Disease-modifying drugs such as methotrexate make infections somewhat more likely, too, but “the risk substantially increases when you add a biologic to the equation,” says Ali Ajam, MD. The risk is greatest during the first 6 months you’re on a biologic then diminishes until it’s only somewhat higher than the risk associated with DMARDs, though no one is certain why.
Being a caregiver for someone with RA is challenging and exhausting. But the more you know, the more you can prepare, catch symptoms sooner and shorten the bad periods. For more information check out these resources:
By Julie Coats, LBSW, JD, CCM
If you are caring for a loved one with Rheumatoid Arthritis and need some help figuring out the next step, a Cariloop Healthcare Coach is here to help guide and support you. Become a member or call 1-844-790-5667 to get started.
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