Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an incurable, progressive disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks a person’s joints, causing inflammation and damage. Approximately 1.3 million people have RA. This condition strikes about three times as many women as men and most commonly appears in people between 40 and 60 years old.
If you have been diagnosed with RA, you are probably familiar with many of these statistics, just as well as you know the pain that occurs in your joints during an RA flare-up. Chances are good that symptoms of your RA have caused you to miss social events or even work.
But there is good news. Although RA is not curable, there are multiple ways to effectively manage your condition and improve your quality of life. Follow these tips to begin improving your condition today:
* Stay positive. Just because RA is incurable doesn’t mean it has to dictate your life. People across the United States who have been diagnosed with this disease lead very productive and rewarding lives. Don’t let RA control you. If you have recently been diagnosed, or have had an especially painful flare-up, it’s important to educate yourself about the disease and take proactive measures to ensure successful management of your RA. This is the first and most important step in your treatment.
* Find the doctor who’s right for you. If you feel comfortable with your current rheumatologist, then you can skip to the next tip. If you don’t have a rheumatologist or you don’t feel comfortable with your current doctor, make finding the right one a priority. Remember, you will work closely with this doctor to create a personalized treatment plan, so trust is important. Before meeting with a new rheumatologist, be sure to create a list of questions you want to ask them. The answers you receive will help determine if this doctor is right for you.
* Maintain a healthy diet. Inflammation is the hallmark sign of RA. Patients may reduce their RA symptoms by incorporating foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, including omega-3 fats such as fish, certain vegetables and soy foods and walnuts. Antioxidants have also been shown to help ease inflammation. Leafy greens, fruits, beans, nuts, dark chocolate and certain spices contain high levels of antioxidants, such as vitamins C, E, carotene, lycopene and flavonoids. Speak with your doctor to learn more about dietary changes that may benefit you.
* Get out and be active. Many people diagnosed with RA mistakenly believe they must limit their activity to avoid disease flare-ups, but regular activity has been proven to limit or control RA’s symptoms. Discuss your activity goals with your doctor to determine which activities could be beneficial for you.
* Improve your methotrexate (MTX) efficiency. As a person with RA, you may be taking an oral form of MTX and know all about the side effects that come with your medication. But these days, some RA patients are opting for new, easily injectable MTX options. Speak with your doctor about what options may be most appropriate for you.
To learn more about how you can treat your RA, visit www.arthritis.org.