By Jack Gardner, M.D. –
Do you find it increasingly difficult to get a good night’s rest, leaving you fatigued during the day? Are you sensitive to hot and cold temperatures? Do you feel stressed and/or depressed on a regular basis? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may have Rheumatoid Arthritis and not even know it. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that over 1.3 million people in the United States alone have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Though men and women both have the disease; three times as many women suffer from the condition than men. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is commonly associated with the aging of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis can begin at any age (typical 30s to 60s).
Rheumatoid Arthritis, commonly referred to as RA, is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints. In RA, for reasons no one fully understands, the immune system – which is designed to protect our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria – instead attacks a thin membrane that lines the joints called the synovium. As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain in the joints and systemic inflammation that occurs throughout the entire body.
What are the signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Because the highest rate of joint erosion occurs in the first year of the disease, it is most beneficial to diagnose Rheumatoid Arthritis as early as possible. Earlier diagnosis results in better treatment results that slow and maybe even stop the disease progression. However, early diagnosis can be challenging because the early symptoms of RA are often non-specific such as malaise, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, muscle soreness, low-grade fever which are also symptoms of other conditions.
If you experience any of these symptoms you may in fact be suffering from RA. If you think RA is the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will look for swelling, warmth and limited motion in joints throughout your body and note pattern of the joints affected. Several blood tests can be preformed to identify antibodies, levels of inflammation and other markers that aid diagnosis and assessments. The doctor will also look for nodules, which are lumps under the skin, sometimes present in RA patients. Your doctor will likely order X-rays to determine if you have bone loss at the edges of joints, called erosions, combined with loss of joint cartilage.
For many people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, joint pain and swelling is not the only problem. Many of the side effects of RA include: sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, fatigue, difficultly sleeping, stress, depression, and loss of appetite.
What can be done to reduce your risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis?
While there are genetic factors involved in the development of Rheumatoid Arthritis, which cannot be changed, there are several risk factors that can be controlled. Among these controllable risk factors, the one associated with developing RA most strongly and consistently is smoking. Yet one more compelling reason to quit smoking. The other factors are mostly related to female reproductive hormones. Early studies claim that women with no history of oral contraceptive use have a modest to moderate decrease in risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis. While there has been mixed evidence of an association between HRT and RA, studies have shown that RA is less common in women who have breast fed.
Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Unfortunately there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. There are several classes of medications used to reduce the symptoms of RA. These include NSAIDs, steroids, DMARDs, Immunosuppressants, TNF-alpha inhibitors and many others.
For those who do not want to rely on pharmaceutical drugs for relief, there are non-medication treatments that can successfully treat RA as well. Adjunctive therapies such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, dietary changes and the FDA-approved P-STIM can greatly improve the quality of life for RA sufferers.
P-STIM Therapy has helped RA sufferers by decreasing sympathetic nervous system tone by increasing blood flow to the affected tissues. This helps clear inflammatory mediators and decreases pain and swelling of the joints. P-STIM therapy also caused the releases of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, further decreasing their pain levels. It also has been show to:
• Reduce localized inflammation and swelling
• Reduce narcotic consumption
• Promote healthful sleep
For more information on drug free treatments of RA and other conditions contact Drug Free Pain Center of the Palm Beaches and schedule your consultation today by calling 561-444-9805. Or visit us on the web at www.DrugFreePainCenter.com.