The Progression of RA
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease. It also presents differently in each person that it affects. Proper, effective treatment is necessary to help prevent or slow down joint damage. Without it, joint damage can progress, potentially causing deformity, disability, loss of function and an overall poor quality of life. To better understand the effect RA can have without effective treatment, it may help first to understand what happens in RA.
A joint is where two bones meet. Each joint in the body is surrounded by a capsule that protects and supports it. This capsule is lined with a type of tissue called synovium, which produces synovial fluid. This clear fluid lubricates the cartilage and bones inside the joint's capsule, allowing the bones to move with ease.
RA causes inflammation of the synovium. This inflammation is known as synovitis, which leads to symptoms such as pain, swelling, redness and warmth. As RA progresses, inflammation may continue to wear down the cartilage and bone within the joint.
This can also weaken the muscles, ligaments and tendons that are supposed to support the joint. Combined with the inflammation, this weakened support system can cause joint damage and other symptoms of RA.
Unfortunately, as joint damage worsens, it's not only painful, but it can also affect your quality of life. And since RA is a chronic disease that may continue indefinitely, it's important to come up with management techniques so that you can maintain your standard of living. This may be as simple as finding new ways to accomplish tasks and hobbies that were once easier.
Adaptive or self-help devices can be a big help. These devices may help protect your joints, provide leverage when you need it and help extend your range of motion. And they are available for many parts of your everyday life — whether at home, at work or at play.
For instance, this easy-carry handle latches onto heavy objects, such as shopping bags and trash bags, so you can carry them with more ease.
These scissors consist of a special spring-loaded handle that can reduce hand motion and pressure. Plus, the cushioned grip can help decrease pressure on the thumb and fingers.
The handy pill cap opener can give you extra leverage and a comfortable grip, making it easier to open pill caps and other twist-cap bottles.
You can even find adaptive devices for your car. This key turner provides extra leverage, which can reduce pressure and pain on your fingers.
Ever have difficulty with those small buttons on your shirts and pants? This button hook's built-up handle makes it a little easier to get dressed.
As does this zipper pull, which is especially handy for people who have difficulty pinching their fingers to pull a zipper.
You can also find aids for:
- Turning door knobs, light switches and faucets;
- Opening jars
- Getting hold of hard-to-reach objects;
- Using the toilet and bathing;
- And so much more
Some devices can be found at your local pharmacy. There are also a variety of devices available for purchase online.
No matter what your strategies for everyday RA management are, be sure to talk to your rheumatologist about them. It's important to keep your doctor in the know so that he or she can continue to provide you with the treatment and information that suits your needs.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a progressive disease, which means that without proper treatment, symptoms like inflammation can lead to permanent joint damage. As this joint damage progresses, it can cause deformity, disability, loss of function and an overall poor quality of life.
How RA progresses
Simply put, a joint is where two bones meet. The joint is enclosed by a capsule that protects and supports it. This capsule is lined with synovium, a type of tissue that produces synovial fluid. This clear fluid lubricates the cartilage and bones inside the joint’s capsule so that the bones can move with ease.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the synovium, which is referred to as synovitis. This inflammation leads to the pain, swelling, redness and warmth often associated with RA. As RA progresses, inflammation may continue to destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. This can also cause the muscles, ligaments and tendons that normally keep the joint stable to weaken. Combined with the inflammation, this weakened support system can lead to the ongoing joint damage and other symptoms of RA.
Keep in mind that as RA progresses and joint damage worsens, it can have a significant impact on your quality of life. It may become increasingly difficult to perform activities that were once easy for you or that you enjoyed. For these reasons, it's important to get an accurate diagnosis as early as possible, team with a rheumatologist and start on a course of treatment to control inflammation.
Preventing further joint damage
We understand that having a progressive disease like RA can make you feel scared or hopeless. However, you have the power to take control. By communicating effectively with your physician, he or she can gain insight into how your RA might progress. Together you can take the necessary steps to prevent further joint damage, including:
- An effective treatment plan that helps relieve pain and fatigue and slow the progression of RA
- Effective strategies for joint protection, such as finding new ways to perform tasks without added stress on joints
- Adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercising regularly and eating healthy
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