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Rheumatoid Arthritis Is a Stiff Challenge, But Not Without Hope

By Dr. Molly Casey

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis is a catch-all term referring to joint pain and disorders. Arthritis refers to joint degeneration. There are different types of arthritis and different causes behind the different types. One type that patients routinely ask about is rheumatoid arthritis. So let’s get into it here.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means the immune system mistakenly attacks your body. The immune system fights germs, bacteria, and viruses guarding the body and keeping it healthy. In rheumatoid arthritis condition, the immune system attacks the joints of the body, particularly the synovial membrane (a thin layer of tissue surrounding the joint). In rheumatoid arthritis, this tissue produces a buildup of the joint fluid -- including immune system components and results in swelling, inflammation and pain. These processes ultimately cause further joint tissue damage by affecting connective tissue, muscles, tendons, and fibrous tissue.

Who Does It Affect

Rheumatoid arthritis, often called RA, can affect anyone, though women are twice as likely as men to be affected by it. The prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis is 0.5 to 1 percent in developed countries, according to the Arthritis Foundation published article “Arthritis By The Numbers.” Adults with RA have a greater risk of fall-related injuries and fractures and, in 2015, the national indirect cost was $252 million related to absenteeism because of RA. One-fourth of all diagnosed become unable to work within 10-20 years of initial diagnosis. This condition is a real issue on both health and economic fronts.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis process is done through physical exams and a host of lab tests, including ANA, RF, Anti-CCP, ESR, and Cardio CRP. While these likely mean nothing to you, they are inflammation and, specifically, rheumatoid markers. Sometimes X-rays of affected joints may be taken and evaluated.

Conservative Treatment

This diagnosis of RA is not an end-all for those individuals, and there is even hope if you prefer conservative care options Assuring the body’s communication system is functioning optimally without interference is foremost in allowing the body to heal and work at its best. Next, it is possible to use conservative methods to assist the body in decreasing the exaggerated state of inflammation and allowing the body to be free of enough toxins to stop it from attacking itself. This is certainly done best through the guidance of a functional medical doctor who works diligently to strengthen the host (your body) and add synthetic interventions last. Often your chiropractor can make referrals to trusted functional medical doctors. Functional doctors will often take out inflammatory foods, most specifically gluten, address gut issues and any underlying infections, and help the patient cleanse from heavy metals or other toxic environmental exposures.

If you have RA -- or think you may have RA -- there is help. If you value conservative care and desire to support your body’s ability to heal, there are options for you. Providers such as chiropractors may be your best first step in finding the best fit for you and your journey to health with rheumatoid arthritis.

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