Risk Factors for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that has no known cause. Genetics play a significant role, which is why your doctors need to know as much about your family’s medical history as your own.
Other factors put people at a higher risk beyond the genetic component:
- Age: People between the ages of 40 and 60 are most likely to develop RA, although there are cases of younger or older patients.
- Gender: Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
- Environmental factors: Some studies link asbestos and air pollutants to the risk of RA. Certain triggers can start the disease although there is more research to be completed.
- Obesity: Women who were considered obese showed a greater tendency to be diagnosed with RA. Extra weight can trigger an inflammatory response and lead to a rheumatoid arthritis flare.
How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated?
When rheumatoid arthritis is first diagnosed, the most common form of treatment is with medications known as DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs). These medications are designed to slow the progression of damage from RA as much as possible to prevent permanent damage.
The goal of early aggressive treatment is to push rheumatoid arthritis into remission, where there is a reduction in active symptoms.
When symptoms do start to become aggravated, it is referred to as a flare. While you may not be able to eliminate every symptom, the medications that are started early can significantly prevent more problems down the road.
Once the inflammation is under better control, you will find a variety of ways to help manage your symptoms on a day to day basis. Before trying anything new, be sure to run your idea past your doctor so they can be made aware of any potential side effects or drug interactions.
Prescription and Over-the-Counter Treatment
- Steroid treatment: Doctors prescribe steroids like prednisone in short phases due to the long-term side effects. Steroids are highly successful in reducing inflammation and treating acute symptoms. They’re not recommended for continuous, daily use.
- NSAIDs: NSAIDs are a group of medications that treat inflammation. Aleve, Advil, and Motrin are over the counter strength NSAIDs, and others are available for prescription strength. These can be very helpful in controlling inflammation from a flare. Long-term side effects can include stomach irritation and high blood pressure, so you need to be monitored while taking these medications.
Surgery for Rheumatoid Arthritis
There may come a time when your doctor recommends surgery to help with your rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Be sure to take the time to understand your options and if possible, seek a second opinion to ensure you have all the information you need to decide.
There are several different types of surgical procedures aimed at providing relief from RA symptoms:
- Synovectomy: The lining of your joints is called the synovium. This procedure removes the lining entirely and with it, the inflammation.
- Tendon repair: Tendons can become loose and damaged because of RA inflammation, and in some cases rupture. The surgeon can repair any damage to the tendon which will, in turn, strengthen the joint.
- Joint fusion: If a joint cannot be replaced, fusing the joints together can improve stability and reduce pain symptoms.
- Joint replacement: A joint can be completely replaced by one made of plastic and metal with the damaged material removed.
Natural Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Once you have exhausted the treatment options from a pharmaceutical standpoint, you may find that you’re in need of more daily remedies to help treat rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. There also may be times you need to stop your prescription regimen for a while and having other treatment options can help in the meantime.
As always, consult with your physician, rheumatologist or physical therapist when starting a new therapy or natural treatment. They may be able to give you valuable insight and instructions to make your treatment plan the most effective it can be.