Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that targets the skin, lungs, eyes, heart, blood vessels, and joints with damaging inflammation. As many as 1.3 million Americans – 1 percent of the world’s population – were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last year. While the condition affects a large group of people, it’s somewhat of an enigma in the medical community. The cause of the disease is unknown, and a cure is nonexistent.
Many physicians today emphasize the importance of early detection for treating RA, calling these initial stages the “window of opportunity” in which an aggressive regimen of anti-rheumatic drugs can be helpful. Because RA comes on gradually with minor symptoms, and comes and goes with erratic flare-ups, some people don’t give the condition the adequate attention it deserves. Be aware of your symptoms so that you can have the best possible outcome.
Joint pain is perhaps the symptom most synonymous with RA. A thickening of the joint lining (synovium) and excess joint fluid can both contribute to inflammation in the joints. Swelling stretches and irritates the outer capsule that covers the joint, and causes the nerve endings in this region to send pain signals to the brain.
Left untreated, permanent damage can occur in the cartilage, bones, and ligaments. Joint swelling and tenderness can lead to loss of range of motion, which makes simple daily tasks seem like an uphill battle. Some patients report trouble sleeping, which can also be correlated with joint discomfort.
Morning Muscle Stiffness
Stiffness upon waking and getting out of bed is an early sign of arthritis. Pay attention to whether the discomfort lasts several hours, which is a common occurrence with inflammatory arthritis. Napping and sitting for long periods of time can also contribute to stiffness.
Speak to your physician or pain doctor who may be able to recommend gentle, low-impact exercises for maximizing your range of motion and decreasing stiffness. Occupational therapists can add an ergonomic touch to your workspace, and you can take charge at home by employing the use of assistive devices that reduce discomfort, such as easy-to-open bottles and hands-free headsets for the phone.
Fatigue and Other Symptoms
Pay attention to symptoms that arise prior to apparent joint pain. Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience a general feeling of malaise that can affect their quality of life, social interactions, and even cause depression. The autoimmune element of this disease can cause an onset of early flu-like symptoms, which are often overlooked. Inflammation triggers a release of cytokines – the proteins that activate cells – which can cause fever, achiness, and an overall sense of lethargy.
RA Treatment in Louisiana
A debilitating disease, RA shouldn’t be handled alone. The pain management specialists at Louisiana Pain Care can provide relief. Our physicians will craft a unique pain management plan catering to your condition.
We offer treatments such as precision injections with fluoroscopic imaging, providing precise and long-lasting pain relief. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call our office at (318) 323-6405, or request an appointment online.