Tag Archives: autoimmune disease

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Basics

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. It happens when the immune system, or the body’s defense system, isn’t working properly. 

If left untreated, RA can cause permanent damage and complications, like osteoporosis, deformity, rheumatoid nodules, and permanent joint destruction that could require joint replacement.

It’s important to get the help of a rheumatologist, a doctor who treats arthritis and autoimmune diseases. They can help you find the right treatment plan for your RA.

Signs & Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA in its early stages usually starts in your smaller joints, like fingers, hands and toes. As it progresses, it can spread to your bigger joints.

In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body, and they include:

  • Tender, swollen, or warm joints
  • Joint stiffness that’s usually worst first thing in the morning or after too much inactivity
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Losing your appetite

40% of the those with RA also have symptoms that affect other parts of their body, like their:

  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Salivary glands
  • Nerves
  • Bone marrow
  • Blood vessels

These symptoms may come and go and vary over time. Flare-ups are when you experience increased symptoms, but there will also be periods where you experience little to no pain or swelling However, over time, the flare-ups can get worse and eventually cause lasting damage without treatment.

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is frequently hard to diagnose in its early stages. RA’s early signs and symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases, and there’s no one test that diagnose it.

During your visit, your doctor will check your joints for swelling, warmth, and redness and your reflexes and muscle strength.

They may also order a blood test. Some people with RA experience elevated rates of a certain protein in their blood or their blood shows signs of inflammation. Other common blood tests look for a specific antibody common for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Your doctor might also recommend x-rays to look at your joints and their progression over time or MRIs and ultrasounds to help them judge the severity of your case.

Treating RA

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but treatments for RA can help stop joint pain and swelling. Studies show that people who receive early treatment feel better sooner and are more likely to lead an active life. They’re also are less likely to have the type of joint damage that leads to joint replacement.

Medication

What kind of medicine your doctor recommends will depend the severity of your rheumatoid arthritis.

  • NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help with pain and inflammation. You can get over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium in your drugstore. Stronger NSAIDs are also available with a prescription from your doctor.
  • Steroids like prednisone can slow joint damage and help with pain and inflammation. Doctors often prescribe these to help with immediate pain, intending to gradually taper them off later.
  • DMARDs (Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) can slow RA down and help prevent permanent damage to the joints and other tissues.
  • Biologic agents or biologic response modifiers are a newer class of DMARDs that can target the parts of your immune system that trigger inflammation. They’re frequently paired with a traditional DMARD.

Physical or Occupational Therapy

Your doctor might also send you to physical or occupational therapy to treat your RA. They can teach you exercises to help you stay flexible and relieve pain and help you find easier ways to do things like daily tasks.

Surgery

Your doctor might also recommend surgery to restore your ability to use your joints and reduce pain. Common RA surgeries include:

  • Synovectomy – This surgery removes the inflamed lining of the joint and is commonly performed on hips, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers.
  • Tendon repair – Joint damage and inflammation can cause tendons around your joints to loosen, but this type of surgery works to repair them.
  • Joint fusion – You may have to have a joint surgically fused to stabilize or realign it. It can also help with pain.
  • Total joint replacement – This surgery removes the damaged parts of your join and replaces them with a prothesis.

What You Can Do to Improve Your RA

You should regularly do low-impact exercises, like walking, and exercises that increase muscle strength to both improve your overall health and lower the pressure you’re putting on your joints.

Extra weight can also be hard on your joints, so eating right and planning weight management can also help you reduce the stress on your joints.

National Psoriasis Awareness Month

National Psoriasis Awareness Month

August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month, and 7.5 million people are living with it now, and 30% will develop psoriatic arthritis.

And 59% of people with psoriasis report it’s a problem in their everyday life. Learn more.

Psoriatic Arthritis and You

 

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes red, scaly patches on the skin, and 52% of those who have it aren’t satisfied with treatment.

Your Skin and Psoriasis

 

33% of those suffering from psoriasis report social interactions are hurt by their disease.

Hiding Your Psoriasis

 

72% of psoriasis sufferers are overweight or obese, which increases their risk of having it on top of other chronic conditions.

Psoriasis is more common than you know. Pop icon Cyndi Lauper started talking about her own psoriasis in July. You’re not alone.

You're Not Alone with Psoriasis

 

Are you newly diagnosed? The National Psoriasis Foundation has a psoriasis One-on-One to help you talk to someone who understands.

One-on-One Psoriasis Help

 

Looking to learn more about psoriasis treatment, research, or to get involved? The National Psoriasis Foundation’s Free Health Webcasts can help.

Learning More About Psoriasis
Deciphering Diabetes

Diabetes 101

Diabetes’ Reach

Diabetes affects 29.1 million people in the U.S., a whopping 9.4% of our population. That number has doubled in the last 10 years. And each year, it costs Americans more than $245 billion.

Worldwide, it affects more than 380 million people.  And the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, that number of people living with it will more than double.

Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure, and stroke.

What Is Diabetes?

When you eat food, your body turns it into sugar. Then, your body releases a chemical called insulin, which opens up your cells so they can take in that sugar and turn it into energy.

Diabetes is a group of diseases that breaks that system, causing there to be too much sugar in your blood, or high blood glucose.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is normally diagnosed in kids, and it’s the more serious kind. Its is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the cells that create insulin.

Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood, starving your cells. This can cause eye, heart, nerve, and kidney damage, and in serious cases, can result in comas and death.

 Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common kind of diabetes, and it’s frequently called adult-onset diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed when you’re over 35.

People with this form of it produce some insulin, just not enough. And sometime, the insulin isn’t able to open the cells, which is called insulin resistance.

While many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or inactive, there is a new group of patients emerging—young, slim females. Molecular imaging expert Jimmy Bell, MD, calls this condition TOFI, thin outside, fat inside.

Instead of building up below the skin’s surface, fat gathers on their abdominal organs, which is more dangerous. Risk factors for these women include a lack of exercise, daily stress, and yo-yo dieting.

Gestational Diabetes

Some pregnant women who didn’t have diabetes before and won’t have it after develop a form called gestational diabetes.

Your high blood sugar can cause your baby to make too much insulin. When this happens, their cells can absorb too much sugar, which their bodies then store as fat. This can raise their risk of a difficult birth and breathing problems.

Symptoms

Early detection is key to preventing serious complications from diabetes.

These are some common symptoms:

  • Peeing often
  • Feeling very thirsty or hungry, even though you’re eating
  • Extremely tired
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss, even though you are eating more (for type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet (for type 2)

There are often no symptoms for gestational diabetes, so it’s important to get tested at the right time.

Does any of this sound like you? Learn more about how your doctor can test and diagnose you. And learn more about the different treatments.