Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rheumatoid Arthritis" What Is It?"

I'm sure most of you who read my blog know by now that I suffer from RA. I thought I'd post the following explanation I found in my Arthritis Today magazine.

Rheumatoid arthritis (rue-ma-TOYD arth-write-tis) is a chronic disease, mainly characterized by inflammation of the lining, or synovium, of the joints. It can lead to long-term joint damage, resulting in chronic pain, loss of function and disability.

Thankfully, this picture is not of my hands. However, this is an example of severe joint damage caused by RA. I have very minimal deformities when comparing my hands to those of this dear soul.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) progresses in three stages. The first stage is the swelling of the synovial lining, causing pain, warmth, stiffness, redness and swelling around the joint. Second is the rapid division and growth of cells, or pannus, which causes the synovium to thicken. In the third stage, the inflamed cells release enzymes that may digest bone and cartilage, often causing the involved joint to lose its shape and alignment, more pain, and loss of movement.

Because it is a chronic disease, RA continues indefinitely and may not go away. Frequent flares in disease activity can occur. RA is a systemic disease, which means it can affect other organs in the body. Early diagnosis and treatment of RA is critical if you want to continue living a productive lifestyle. Studies have shown that early aggressive treatment of RA can limit joint damage, which in turn limits loss of movement, decreased ability to work, higher medical costs and potential surgery.

RA affects 1 percent of the U.S. population or 2.1 million Americans. Currently, the cause of RA is unknown, although there are several theories. And while there is no cure, it is easier than ever to control RA through the use of new drugs, exercise, joint protection techniques and self-management techniques. While there is no good time to have rheumatoid arthritis, advancements in research and drug development mean that more people with RA are living happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives.

Pam adds: ,I'm happy to report that after my terrible flare up last year which lasted about six months, I am now doing much better. New medications and feeling well enough to start up my walking and exercise routine have been God sends. I've lost right at 25 lbs. and feel so much better. I still have pain on a daily basis, but oh, so much bearable than at this time last year. I can't stress it enough here that the key to feeling better, whether you have a chronic disease or not, depends on your diet and exercize. Eating good, nutritional foods are a must for those of us with RA. Our bodies need all those good vitamins and minerals found in whole foods. Many of you prayed for me during those difficult days. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Some symptoms which manifest themselves in me are:

Cervical spine (the neck): Symptoms include neck stiffness, weakness, and loss of motion. Other symptoms often can't be felt or seen in exams. Ligaments are often inflamed, and there may be problems with the spinal cord or nervous system. Neck pain alone tends to get better, even when the joints are damaged. Damage to the nervous system does not usually improve.

Shoulders: The main symptom is loss of motion. Your body's unconscious reaction to shoulder pain is simply not to use your shoulders. Since daily life doesn't require much shoulder use, frozen shoulder syndrome can set in quickly.

Hands and wrists: Almost everyone with RA has affected wrists. Joints in the middle of your hand and fingers are usually affected. The knuckles at the ends of your fingers usually are not. RA can cause joint deformities that freeze your fingers in unusual positions. Rheumatoid nodules and tendon inflammation can make it hard to bend the fingers. Nodules can cause a locking and catching action as your fingers bend.

Knees: It is easy to feel the swelling in the knees. A fluid-filled lump called a Baker's cyst often appears behind the knee. It can burst and leak fluid into the calf.

Feet and ankles: RA commonly affects the joints in the middle of the toes and the ankle joints. The deformities and pain in the toes can cause problems with walking. The sole of the foot can feel tingly or numb.

The progression of RA is hard to predict. The swelling of RA flares up and dies down, and milder forms of the disease often don't require much treatment. Mild RA may even go undiagnosed.


Diane said...

What a valuable, valuable post.

I, too, was diagnosed with RA 16 years ago. While my hands do not look like those in the photo...there are many days they feel like that!

My most common symptom is a burning sensation in my hands and back--occasionally, my knee. And, the symptoms that I struggle with the feeling like I have the flu....feeling completed depleted....and exhausted. There has been a time that this symptom lasted so long that I found myself staying in bed for days....and eventually became depressed. The unexpected side to RA.

Thankfully, I am learning about RA and ways to avoid and cope with the symptoms.

God Bless you in health.....and comfort...knowing that you are ministering to unknown others!


Penless Thoughts said...

When I was a child I had an Aunt that had the very crippling for. The we had a sister in law with it, a former pastors wife, and we have a wonderful woman in our church with it. I had a BAD bout with it trying to attack me when I turned 40. I even had to have shots in my knees but I walked through it and out. Since turning 70 it is TRYING to rear it's ugly head again.

Mimi said...

this was a very informative post...
so sorry you have to battle with RA..but glad that for the most can keep it under control..(If there is such a thing)
glad you were able to lose weight thus helping your over all general health...
thanks for all the information on your post...

Mishel said...

Thank you for sharing this information. I really didn't know much about RA. I know a few people who also suffer from RA, as you do, and now I feel much better informed. Thanks Pam!! :)

Webutante said...

So glad you're feeling better, Pam, compared to last year! Sounds like you've got some new, good health habits going on.

Do you use olive oil often every day?

Rebecca said...

Oh Pam, I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. What a wonderful example you are to me right now. I don't have RA but the Lord is teaching me about those who have long term pain issues. I'm glad you're doing better.

A Note From Theresa said...

Are those your hands? It sounds and looks painful. Thanks for sharing the information on RA though. (((Hugs)))

Daughter of the King said...

Pam, thank you for informing ALL of us, it makes us understand much better and to have more compassion for those with RA...


Thank you so much for this post. My Grandmother on my Dad's side had this. Her hands were very deformed but I love them so much. They were so very kind and loving. I am so thankful that you are so much better than this time last year, Pam.

I remember when my back would not let me sleep and I would get on the computer, many nights while I was there, you would come in the form of a comment left at my blog and I was so thankful for that encouragement. Just knowing that I was thought about and then to be visited made the long night hours so much better. Thank you, Pam, love you, connie from Texas

Frazzled Farm Wife said...

My mom struggles with RA and her hands are starting to get deformed and it is very painful for her!

Baptist Girl said...

I use to take care of two dear elderly ladies Anne and Mary. Anne had a severe case of RA. She was in her 80s when I met her and she had been in a wheel chair most of her life becasue of it. They did not have the knowledge they have now. She was one of the most God honoring, God fearing ladies I have had the honor of knowing. Her hands looked like that picture, because of the lack of knowledge back then the doctors had to break her joints and this made her fingers just hang, but it took the pain away. She just passed away about 5 years ago and her sister Mary died about 2 months after I met them and I had the honor of being by her side holding her hand, reading Pslm. 23 as she went to be with our Lord. There is a story behind these two dear ladies and there 2 other sisters that I may share one day.

You will be in my prays Pam that the RA will be contrled.


Janie said...

I am so glad that your RA is doing better this year...though I know you still deal with pain. I have many loved ones dealing with this.

Happymama said...

Bless your heart, Pam...we have two dear friends that suffer from RA, so I know a little of what you suffer through, by knowing what they suffer through. God gives us grace in times like these.

Love you,