Here’s why Rheumatoid Arthritis progresses, what to expect, and how to stop it.

Here’s why Rheumatoid Arthritis progresses, what to expect, and how to stop it.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition for which there is no cure. But even though the disease is progressive, newer disease-modifying drugs may actually be able to slow or even halt it getting worse. FibroGuard Gel, containing MSM can assist in effective treatment for pain, inflammation, discomfort as well as with cell and cartilage regeneration.

Early treatment for RA is key, because whatever joint damage has already occurred can’t be reversed. Find out how to recognize the symptoms at each stage of RA, and what can be done to treat it.

Stage 1: Early RA

In the autoimmune process of RA, the body mistakenly attacks its own joint tissue. The stiffness gets better with movement, which differentiates it from osteoarthritis, the “wear-and-tear” degenerative kind.

Ideally at this point you’d see a specialist called a rheumatologist. The only problem is that symptoms may be vague or come and go, making the diagnosis of RA difficult. Often patients with early RA will have joint pain without the characteristic swelling of RA. Moreover, in early inflammatory arthritis there may be only one affected joint that has evidence of swelling as compared to the classic presentation of RA, which tends to involve small joints of the hands and feet in a symmetric fashion.

Dr. Lally says that antibodies in the blood, though, can be present for years before symptoms develop. In addition, “while X-rays at this time are usually normal, more sensitive imaging like ultrasound may show fluid or inflammation in an affected joint,” Dr. Lally says. Still, definitive testing for RA is difficult early on because although these inflammation markers may show up in blood tests, they might not, Dr. Bhatt says. Ultrasound also may or may not show anything unusual.

Stage 2: Antibodies Develop and Swelling Worsens

In many cases, RA progresses to the second stage without being diagnosed. It can affect other organ systems and cause inflammation there: the lungs, the eyes, a skin rash, and it can even affect the heart. Lumps on the elbows called rheumatoid nodules may also develop. (Keep in mind, though, that some people have what’s known as seronegative RA, in which blood tests don’t reveal antibodies like rheumatoid factor or anti-citrullinated protein antibodies, or anti-CCP.)

It has kind of a moth-eaten, chipped off appearance on the X-rays. Ultrasound can also be done, and the most sensitive is an MRI, which would pick up if there are any problems even if the X-ray is normal.

Stage 3: Symptoms Are Visible

In this latter, more severe stage, blood tests and imaging are less relevant for diagnosis because you can actually see the effects of the disease. The joints start becoming bent and deformed, the fingers become crooked. These misshapen joints can press on the nerves and can cause nerve pain as well. 

Stage 4: Joints Become Fused

If not treated, the disease will progress to the last stage, in which there’s no joint remaining at all and the joint is essentially fused. Luckily, with treatment, people with RA do not reach this stage.

How to Know if Your RA Is Progressing

The pain will get worse and you could have more swelling. Although periods of pain may resolve on their own in early RA, these episodes tend to become more frequent and longer in duration until the classic features of RA persist. In addition, pay attention to non-joint symptoms like increased shortness of breath or red, painful eyes, which could be signs the RA is affecting other systems in the body. Let your doctor know if your RA symptoms are changing at all.

What Makes RA Get Worse?

Different factors affect the pace and progression of individual patients’ RA. Some things you can’t control, like whether you have a family history of the disease. In addition, although women are more likely to get RA, when men get rheumatoid arthritis, their prognosis is generally worse.

But there are factors you can control and change. We know smoking makes RA more aggressive, so smoking cessation is key. Also, people with heavy manual occupations might stress the joints further and might have quicker progression. If your workplace can make accommodations for your disease, that will help. 

Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce stress on the joints. But talk to your doctor before starting a workout regimen. A physical therapist can advise patients on the right type of exercise. If patients do exercises wrong it could stress the joints even further. In addition, getting enough sleep, starting an anti-inflammatory diet, eating less red meat, and possibly using herbal remedies like turmeric may help control RA



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