Rheumatoid Arthritis: When Your Body Attacks Your Joints

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the various forms of arthritis and is actually an autoimmune disorder. It is a condition where your body makes a mistake and attacks your own body tissues causing inflammation and pain. This disorder doesn’t just affect the joints, as it can sometimes also have effects on skin, eyes, lungs and blood vessels. The disorder seems to be gender-specific, occurring more in women after the age of forty. 

For those that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, they are well aware of the symptoms. These can include: warm, swollen and tender joints. The condition of stiffness in the morning that seems to last for hours. Weight loss, fever and fatigue.

The early onset of rheumatoid arthritis seems to affect some of the smaller joints in the fingers, hands and toes first. As the progression of the disease continues it can spread to wriest, ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders and hips. In most cases, both sides of the body are affected and the symptoms may come and go, with varying levels of severity. If left untreated, the condition can cause the joints to shift out of place due to deformity.

Although the medical community is unsure what begins the process, it is believed that there is a genetic component involved that may make an individual susceptible to various environmental factors that can cause the inflammation. These can include certain viruses or bacteria that trigger the onset of the disorder.

Rheumatoid arthritis happens when your body’s immune system begins an attack on the synovium, which are the membrane linings that surround the joints. The inflammation that occurs causes the synovium to thicken with can actually end up in the destruction of the bone and cartilage within the joint. There is a weakening of the ligaments and tendons that hold the joint together and, over time, it will cause the joint to lose its alignment and shape.

There are a number of prescription medications that doctors may prescribe and some bring alternate medical problems along with an effect on the kidneys and liver. Some alternative health practitioners suggest a more natural approach for treatment including:

Low impact exercise, which is critical to bone and joint health. These can include walking, yoga, bike riding and swimming.

A physical therapy routine with a licensed practitioner. These professionals can examine and work with you, using a combination of heat, movement therapy and electrical therapy to ease the symptoms and inflammation of the most painful areas.

A mind-body therapy might include tai chi, biofeedback or yoga can help to train the mind with the pain as well as making use of stretching exercises which can assist in the reduction of the pain.

Fish oil contains many natural healing properties that have been associated with the reduction of both the pain and the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. There have yet to be enough studies with results for recommendation, but many RA patients have reported a better quality of life with pain reduction.

Always confer with a primary care physician prior to making any changes in lifestyle, including the addition of supplements, vitamins or any OTC product.