May is Arthritis Awareness Month. It seems appropriate, then, that we take this time to 1) acknowledge what sufferers of arthritis go through on a daily basis and 2) help them to cope. This post will focus specifically on the impact, causes of and treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Daily Challenges of Living with RA

RA is a disorder that results primarily in inflammation of the joints. That in itself can cause a lot of discomfort, especially when several joints are affected. Inflammation can also lead to redness, swelling and even loss of appetite from heightened immune system activity.

Range of motion often decreases, sometimes leaving its victims unable to do daily tasks the way they normally would. In the severest of cases, joint deformity sometimes occurs.

Many individuals with this form of arthritis agree that mornings often bring the worst pain. However, certain activities can no doubt put strain and pressure on joints, aggravating RA symptoms. That means that each day is fair game for pain. What’s to blame for this unpleasant condition?

The Culprit

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the joints and tissues of the body. It affects the synovium, a soft tissue that produces synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates the joints and nourishes cartilage, which absorbs the shock and pressure of movement.

It’s no wonder that both cartilage and joints can be worn down and damaged. They need proper lubrication and nourishment to serve their purpose. Without these things they wear down, causing pain and leaving joints unprotected.

Now the question is: What can be done to relieve some of the intense pain that this condition brings?

Coping With RA

A lifelong disease such as this one doesn’t just bring physical challenges. Depending on how you view it, the mental and emotional impact can be even more debilitating than the disease itself at times. It may be disheartening that formerly simple tasks are no longer as easy to do.

However, one of the best things you can do for yourself if you suffer from RA is to be patient with yourself. Don’t compare between the past and present you; go at the most comfortable pace for you now. Also, don’t trick yourself into believing that you can no longer live a full and happy life. This is simply not true.

What else can help you, though?

Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications are helpful in controlling the pain.

Finding Support: There are many people who, despite being diagnosed with RA, are managing quite well. Finding support in them and hearing their stories can help you to maintain a positive attitude.

Knowing Your Limits: Of course, it’s tempting to want to do all the things we used to do and love. However, some of those things may make it harder to live with arthritis. Be attentive and listen to what your body is telling you. Cut down on activities that clearly only make matters worse.

Physical Therapy or Exercise: At the approval or suggestion of your doctor, it may be helpful to attend physical therapy or begin an appropriate exercise routine. This can strengthen the joints and the muscles that surround them.

While rheumatoid arthritis can be painful and challenging to manage, it doesn’t mean that your life is over. You can still function, be productive and be happy! Perhaps one or more of the suggestions above can help you to better cope with your condition.