Rheumatism, a term commonly used to describe a range of conditions that affect the joints, muscles, and connective tissues, can significantly impact one’s quality of life. While there is no cure for most types of rheumatic diseases, adopting a proactive approach to managing symptoms and promoting overall well-being is crucial.
Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is a form of inflammatory polyarthritis that can lead to joint destruction, deformity, and loss of function. Swelling of the small joints, especially in the hands and feet, is the hallmark of the disease, but most joints in the body can become affected. In addition to the joints, other manifestations of the disease can be seen including subcutaneous nodules, eye inflammation, lowering of the white blood count, and lung disease. Frequent symptoms include fatigue and joint stiffness, especially in the morning and after prolonged periods of rest.
Without appropriate treatment, chronic pain, disability, and excess mortality are unfortunate outcomes of this disease. RA causes joint damage in 80% to 85% of patients, with the brunt of the damage occurring during the first 2 years of the disease. Left untreated, the risk of mortality is increased. Untreated people with RA are twice as likely to die compared with unaffected people the same age.
Common causes of mortality in RA include cardiovascular disease, which accounts for approximately one-third to one-half of RA-related deaths, and infection, which is associated with approximately one-quarter of such deaths. RA is also known to be associated with higher risks for lymphoma, anaemia, osteoporosis, and depression.
Consult with Healthcare Professionals:
- Do consult with a rheumatologist for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plans.
- Regular check-ups with healthcare professionals can help monitor your condition and adjust your treatment as needed.
Stay Physically Active:
- Engage in low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, or gentle yoga to maintain joint flexibility and muscle strength.
- Consult with a physical therapist for a tailored exercise program that suits your specific condition.
Maintain a Healthy Diet:
- Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and flaxseeds may have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit those with rheumatism.
- Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness to alleviate mental and physical tension.
- Adequate sleep is essential for managing stress and promoting overall well-being.
Use Assistive Devices:
- Employ assistive devices like ergonomic chairs, supportive footwear, or joint braces to reduce strain on affected areas.
- Adapt your living space to make daily activities easier, such as installing handrails or ramps.
- Don’t engage in high-impact activities that could strain joints and exacerbate symptoms.
- Listen to your body, and if you experience pain or fatigue, take a break and rest.
Limit Inflammatory Foods:
- Avoid foods that may contribute to inflammation, such as processed foods, sugary snacks, and excessive red meat.
- Alcohol and tobacco can also worsen symptoms, so consider minimizing or eliminating their consumption.
- Don’t skip prescribed medications without consulting your healthcare provider.
- Inform your doctor about any over-the-counter medications or supplements you are taking to avoid potential interactions.
Ignore Mental Health:
- Don’t underestimate the impact of mental health on rheumatism. Seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals when needed.
- Depression and anxiety can contribute to symptom flare-ups, so addressing mental well-being is integral to overall management.
Delay Seeking Help:
- Don’t ignore new or worsening symptoms. Promptly report changes to your healthcare team.
- Early intervention can prevent further joint damage and improve long-term outcomes.
Managing rheumatism effectively requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the individual. By following the dos and avoiding the corresponding don’ts, individuals with rheumatism can take proactive steps towards maintaining a fulfilling and active lifestyle. It is essential to consult with healthcare professionals to receive personalized advice and guidance tailored to your specific needs and conditions.