Duration of RA Flare-Ups and Steps to Reduce its Long Term Repercussions
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disorder, but it also often comes in waves; some people experience very few symptoms for a long time (a state of remission), and then a painful flare will attack the joints and amplify inflammation for days, weeks or months. How you handle a flare-up, right away and in the days that follow, can determine how much pain and damage your joints will suffer. Learn about some proven techniques to suppress the symptoms and get back your comfort and mobility.
What Defines a Flare-up?
With rheumatoid arthritis, a flare-up describes an active phase of the disease, marked by an increase in joint swelling, inflammation, redness and stiffness. Sometimes these symptoms are relatively mild, and can be controlled with medication, but when the flare-up gets out of control it can leave you throbbing with pain.
Watch out for some common signs that can indicate the beginning of a flare-up, such as:
- Increased morning stiffness. Morning stiffness is one of the most prevalent symptoms of fibromyalgia, but you should take note of changes in its intensity and duration. If it takes you longer to get through your morning stretches, or if the stiffness lasts into the afternoon, a full-blown flare-up could be waiting around the corner.
- Changes in blood work. A rise in the “sed” rate or the level of C-reactive protein in your blood can indicate an increase in inflammation, which points to a flare-up or progression of the disease.
- Loss of appetite. Your cravings and aversions can tell you quite a bit about your state of health. Appetite loss is a fairly common sign that a flare may be coming soon, but since it can accompany low-grade fever and profound muscle aches, it could be mistaken for the flu.
Experts are uncertain about what exactly causes an RA flare-up, but some events seem to trigger a symptomatic response. A recent illness, a change in medication or eliminating a food or medication entirely can lead to a burst of inflammation, so take a closer look at the events and activities in your life that may have provoked an RA response in the past.
How to Treat a Flare-Up Faster and More Thoroughly
Unfortunately, there is no direct and instantaneous cure for a flare-up, but there are some steps you can take to reduce the inflammation and relieve the pain. In fact, it’s important that you take action as early as you can in order to prevent permanent joint damage, which would include medication for the symptoms and the rest for your body.
Each RA sufferer has a personalized treatment plan, including a specific combination of medication, but the first course of treatment for a flare-up is often low-dose prednisone to stifle the inflammation within a few days. Your doctor may also want to adjust your dose of methotrexate or an immunosuppressant to continue working on your symptoms in the weeks and months to come.
The right medication is crucial for RA management, but the foods you choose to eat can also help your body overcome inflammation. Focus on antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, garlic and green tea to feed your muscles and soothe your joints. When you approach your flare-up from all angles, you stand a much better chance of sending your RA back into remission.