At Home with Chris Jessen 2018 - 146

▲ J O I N T H E A LT H

146 | FEBRUARY 2018

orthopaedic surgeon for investigation.
It's important to be diagnosed as early as
possible, as treatment is more effective
the sooner it's begun.
TREATMENT OPTIONS

There's currently no cure for rheumatoid
arthritis. However, there are treatments
that help to control symptoms, slow
down the progress of the condition and
reduce damage to the joints which can
make life much easier.
Over-the-counter painkillers such
as codeine and paracetamol can help
to ease pain. If stronger pain control
is needed, your doctor may prescribe
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs). During a flare-up, your
doctor may prescribe corticosteroids
to reduce inflammation.
A group of drugs known as diseasemodifying anti-rheumatic drugs
(DMARDs), such as methotrexate and
sulfasalazine, target the immune system
to prevent it attacking your joints. This
helps to reduce long-term damage and
you'll be tested regularly for side-effects
to these drugs, as there are some.
Drugs known as 'biological medicines'
target the chemicals in your body that
cause inflammation. For instance,
adalimumab blocks TNF, a protein
overproduced by the body in cases
of rheumatoid arthritis, causing
inflammation and damage to
your joints. You may find these helpful.
Patients are sometimes offered surgery
to remove the inflamed lining
of a joint, or to replace an entire joint
that has been badly damaged.

SELF-HELP
MEASURES
Regular, gentle exercise can help
keep you mobile, stabilising joints
and reducing stiffness and pain
- and it won't make your arthritis
worse. Little and often is best, and
swimming is ideal as your joints are
supported by the water.
Your doctor can refer you to a
physiotherapist, who can design an
exercise programme for you.
If you have problems with your
feet, supportive shoes that are
padded to reduce impact can keep
you comfortable.
A healthy lifestyle: a balanced,
nutritious diet will help to support
your body. Avoid alcohol, lose
weight if necessary and don't smoke
(you're more likely to develop
rheumatoid arthritis if you smoke).
Fish oils: many people find taking
fish oils, such as cod liver oil, helps
to ease stiffness.
Emotional support: living with the
pain of arthritis, and the limits it can
put on your lifestyle, can impact on
your mental health and relationships.
Counselling or a support group can
help you share your issues - ask your
doctor about local services.
Adapting your environment: there
are many appliances and gadgets for
your home and car that can make
life more manageable. If the arthritis
is bad or you are recovering from
an operation, some of these devices
may be available on the NHS.

WORDS: PAUL JONES, IMAGES: GETTY IMAGES, SHUTTERSTOCK

THE OTHER FORM

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory
disease where your immune system
starts to attack your joints. This leads
to inflammation and damage in the
affected joints, causing pain, swelling
and stiffness. It can affect any joint and
can be painful and debilitating, making
normal daily activities difficult.
Those with the condition also
commonly experience other symptoms
including fatigue, weakness, flu-like
symptoms, depression and weight loss.
Around 80% also have anaemia. Fleshy
lumps known as rheumatoid nodules
may form, usually on the elbows, hands
and feet. Inflammation can also occur
in other areas of the body, including the
internal organs, the eyes, skin and even
in blood vessels.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects around
1% of the population, and is mostly
likely to develop in those over 40, but
people of any age can get it, including
children. Women are three times more
likely to develop it than men.
The pain and inflammation may go
through peaks and troughs. Symptoms
may reduce for periods of time (even
years) but at other times, it can flare up.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects people
in different ways and with varying
degrees of severity. The exact causes
aren't known, but it's believed there's a
hereditary factor. Some experts believe it
can be triggered by hormonal changes,
stress or infections.
If your doctor suspects you may
have rheumatoid arthritis, he'll refer
you to a rheumatologist or specialist



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