Arthritis Research UK 0800 5200 520
What is it?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic condition which attacks the joints, creating inflammation and stiffness.
If this condition goes unnoticed it can damage cartilage, as well as the bones and the tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Over time, there is loss of cartilage, and the joint spacing between bones can become smaller.
It is more prominent in women than in men.
Rheumatoid Arthritis affects both sides of the body symmetrically which makes this condition stand out against its similar conditions.
What Does It Feel Like?
The warning signs to be aware of are joint stiffness, pain or swelling, as well as fatigue. Movement may be limited after long periods of sitting or standing and frustration stands in as the person is determined to keep pushing through the pain.
There may not be a comfy position to get into to help the pain as it is always there. It can become a balance of war between doing too much and doing too little.
Some days only certain areas of the body may hurt, other days all the areas. A person becomes custom to the pain and can no longer tell what is pain free. It can feel like a twisting knife or a dull ache depending on the flare.
How Is It Diagnosed?
In the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis it can be hard to diagnose. If you believe you may be experiencing early signs of joint pain speak to your GP. Blood tests may show inflammation and x-rays may be able to show any damage already present to the joints. MRI and ultrasounds are being used as a diagnostic tool but not as often.
What Treatments Are Available?
The earlier this condition is diagnosed the better medications may be in slowing down the progression. Medications most often prescribed are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
An occupational therapist may be able to advise ways to complete day to day tasks which limit the onset of pain.
You may find heat packs help with pain as do warm baths or showers when a flare is starting up.
Surgery may be considered for hip, knee, shoulder and elbow replacements or the release of nerves or tendons.
What is it like for you to live with Rheumatoid Arthritis?
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PRODUCED JANUARY 2018 UPDATED JULY 2018,
REVIEW DATE JANUARY 2019