1 of every 100 adults in the United States is currently living with some form of rheumatoid arthritis. Of those, 75% are women above the age of forty. In fact, thousands more may currently be experiencing symptoms without even knowing they have the disorder.
It is a benefit to all people to stay educated about this disease, especially if it makes the difference in getting help for someone that needs it. On this RA Awareness Day, do your part to learn more and teach others about rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a form of chronic autoimmune arthritis. It causes stiffness, limited motion, swelling, and pain in any of the body’s joints that are affected. This is because certain cells in the body start to misinterpret healthy joint cells for bad ones, attacking them and causing inflammation.
This causes chronic pain as well as “flare-ups”—a worsening of RA symptoms which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days to multiple weeks.
Warning Signs and Prevention
Rheumatoid Arthritis is most often found in adults over forty—however, people of all ages can be diagnosed, so it is important to be aware of possible warning signs. These include:
- Unnatural stiffness in the limbs and joints, especially in the morning
- Inflammation in the joints of your hands, wrists, knees, or elbows
- Loss of energy or appetite
- Dry or inflamed eyes
- Lumps (“rheumatoid nodules”) around the joints of hands and elbows
- Low, consistent fevers
Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for RA. Because it’s root cause is still unknown, it is also difficult to say what may prevent this autoimmune disease from occurring. However, things like maintaining a healthy body weight, living an active lifestyle, and abstaining from smoking or other unhealthy habits are always beneficial to preventing disease.
Coping with RA
For those living and working with rheumatoid arthritis, it is vital to develop healthy coping strategies to learn to live with the disease. First and foremost, it is important to have healthy communication with your primary care doctor to keep watch over your RA and its symptoms.
Staying as active as possible with low-impact exercises can help keep bones and joints stronger. Good sleep and a healthy diet of anti-inflammatory foods (blueberries, celery, salmon, pineapple, etc.) can also help to keep pain down.
For most chronic, painful diseases, it is common for other illnesses like depression to make situations worse. Staying hopeful, positive, and motivated is vital post-diagnosis to keep you strong. Leaning on family, friends, or support groups can also help you find distractions, happiness, and independence in spite of your RA.
Next Steps to Take
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and is looking for additional assistance, Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) may be an option. Social Security can provide monthly benefits to patients and families who are financially unable to function due to their impairment.
For more information on SSDI or the application process, you can refer to the Social Security Administration’s website or speak with a Social Security disability attorney.