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You Don’t Have To Be Old to Suffer From Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis can strike at any age. While statistically you’re more likely to develop RA when you’re over 60, lots of cases start a long time before then. To make sure you’re clued up, we’ve got 15 early-sign symptoms to look out for.

Fever

A raised temperature can often be a sign of infection, and in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis this can be a very clear indicator. Lots of RA medication lowers your immune system response, leaving you more open to developing infections or contracting viruses, so it’s important to keep an eye on your temperature.

Anemia

Inflammation of the joints can adversely affect your bone marrow, causing a decrease in red blood cell production, which in turn can cause anemia. This is often corrected through proper treatment of RA, but it’s something to look out for, as it can be a serious condition when left unmanaged.

Functional Loss

People who suffer from RA often complain about problems with their grip or dexterity and this is a very common issue. Swelling, inflammation and other processes that happen in the joints of Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers cause problems with movement and ability that can seriously affect your life, especially if you’re used to physical work.

Symmetrical Problems

One of the key characteristics of RA is that it causes the same problems on both sides of the body, and while this is often the case – it doesn’t always occur. For most sufferers though, the severity, pain and movement issues occur symmetrically as opposed to other joint and internal diseases.

Polyarthritis (many joints)

Young people with arthritis tend to only be affected in one or a few joints, however it can eventually lead to Polyarthritis. This means that many joints are affected, especially with RA – this can mean anywhere from the hands, feets and smaller joints to the knees, shoulders and pelvis.

Swelling

You can usually tell when your joints are bigger than usual, and swelling is a common problem for RA sufferers. It stops the joint from being able to move properly, so it might make it difficult for you to walk, to pick things up or even use your hands for tasks such as writing or typing.

Deformity

Rheumatoid Arthritis causes the loosening of ligaments, alongside the erosion of cartilage and bone, which can lead to deformity. This usually affects the hands and feet and can make movement difficult. With proper management, this can be avoided in chronic sufferers, but early detection is definitely key.

Stiffness

If you’re no longer bouncing out of bed in the morning, you could be suffering from joint stiffness. Usually at its worst immediately after you wake up, joint stiffness can affect how well you move and delay your progress in the morning. Treatment usually helps reduce this symptom.

Tenderness

Inflammation usually means a part of your body has expanded or filled with excess fluid when it’s not supposed to. This leads to some pretty nasty pain, but also tenderness. Any joint filled with fluid is going to be uncomfortable without the added pressure from outside, so anyone who touches your RA affected joints is going to cause more pain for you.

Limping

One of the first symptoms to look out for in children who suffer with RA, limping is caused by problems with the joints in the legs and feet. Whether this is due to pain, inflammation, swelling or a bit of everything, walking can be painful and imbalanced at any age.

Heat

Often stated as the strangest symptom of RA, joint heat is when the joint becomes abnormally warm to the touch. While you might not be able to cook an egg using your wrist, this heat comes from the inflammation caused by RA and can become worse as the disease progresses.

Joint Pain

Active Rheumatoid Arthritis means your joints will be inflamed and this can hurt – a lot. A thickened synovium plus excess fluid can send your pain nerve signals into a frenzy. This can lead to pain during movement and even during rest, which is basically constant pain.

Range of Movement Problems

Range of Movement is something we rarely think about – until we don’t have it fully anymore. In RA sufferers, swelling and inflammation can lead to reduced range of movement, and in long-term sufferers this can be permanent. It’s important to let your clinician know of any range of movement changes you experience.

Redness

If the swelling is bad enough on your joint, you might notice some redness. This is due to expanding capillaries dealing with the shock of the increase in size, and is very common in RA sufferers. This doesn’t happen with all inflammation, however you might notice it most around the smaller joints in your hands and feet.

Fatigue

One of the biggest problems with Rheumatoid Arthritis is how it uses your energy. From the constant pain, the swelling and fever to the anemia, these symptoms can drain your energy and cause fatigue. If you’re not eating enough, this tiredness can get worse, very quickly.

Rheumatoid Arthritis can develop at any age, and while the symptoms above can be scary, it’s important to realise that correct treatment and advice from a Rheumatologist can help you manage your condition and even return you to a normal way of life.

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Exercise-Arthritis-Pain-

If you are looking to start any form of exercise, then it is a good idea to discuss this with your doctor first. This is particularly important if you have not exercised for some time and/or are aged 40 and above. Your medic will assess your condition and advise you about suitable forms of exercise. He can also refer you to a physiotherapist if necessary. The important issue is finding something that you are able to do and enjoy. Many people start a sport or exercise with plenty of enthusiasm only to find that this has declined after a short period of time. There are many reasons for this, one of these being a lack of motivation. Motivation is why you persist with exercise even if it is hard work or exhausting so you need to find an activity which will keep your motivation levels up.

Your choices are joining a gym, jogging, cycling, swimming, walking or even dance classes. But remember to check first with your GP before undertaking any of these. As one sufferer put it: “I don’t want my pain and struggle to make me a victim. I want my battle to make me someone else’s hero.”

arthritis-Learning-to-Cope-as-a-Partner-Carer

For spouses and partners, it is important that you do not neglect your own needs whilst looking after your loved suffering with severe arthritis. The role of carer can be stressful and demanding which, if not carefully managed, can affect your own health and general well-being. Of course, it is a rewarding role and one that many get a huge amount of satisfaction from. But, as a partner-carer, you need to take time out for yourself.

There are networks that can help – but don’t forget your family and friends. Don’t cut yourself off from others. Spend leisure time with your children, socialize with your friends and undertake some form of activity. Exercise can help or try a new hobby. Accept that there will be times when you feel frustrated or tired. This is an entirely normal reaction and means that you are basically, human. Allow yourself to feel like this and try and do something to take your mind off things. Says Scott R. Beach, PhD, director of the Survey Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of a 2005 study on care provider behavior: “Use all the available carer services in your area. Or if you have any family members who can help out for a few hours a day, use them, so you can get away for a while. Don’t try to do everything yourself.”

Arthritis-and-Stretching

Staying in one position for too long can make joints stiffer. When working at a desk or watching TV, make sure to get up every 15 minutes to do stretching and get your body moving. Adjusting your position frequently can keep you from getting achy too. Even simple exercises are ideal for reducing the symptoms of arthritis as well as ensuring that the joints remain flexible and mobile. The issue of mobility is a vital one as this will help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints which keep them in place.

The old saying ‘use it or lose it’ is particularly relevant to arthritis sufferers. Exercise confers a range of benefits which include weight management, healthy heart and lungs, increased energy levels and improved mental well-being. Experts recommend that we all exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day at least five times a week. If this sounds a lot then break these 30 minutes up into three, ten-minute sessions. You may find this easier to do as well as fitting in better with your lifestyle. But try not to overdo exercise. If you are stiff and sore, then this to be expected but if this is worse than before you started then it is a sign of having overdone things. Many arthritis sufferers find that exercising little and often provides the best results.

July-artworks-hbmcBe-a-smart-shopper_2

Before your trip to the shops, make a list of items you need. When possible, go to shops you’re familiar with, so you won’t spend extra steps walking around, looking for what you want. Importantly, take your time. When you’re in a rush, you’re more likely to put unnecessary strain on your joints, wear yourself out, or become overwhelmed, so budget an extra half-hour to get your shopping done. Also, take short breaks before and after you go to the store to put a warm or cold compress on troublesome joints. Although taking short breaks may seem like it will take you longer to complete a task, they can help conserve your energy, keep you from getting overly fatigued, and ultimately be easier for your joints.

Opt for paper bags over plastic so you can clutch heavy grocery bags with your arms instead of straining your hands. If you do need plastic, loop the armholes through your forearm – just don’t let them slide into your elbows, which aren’t as good at supporting weight. And minimize. Buy small packages that are easy to lift. Remember, this isn’t the only time you’ll have to pick that item up. You’ll have to lift it each time you use it at home too. Keeping your shopping trips short can also reduce joint strain. Go to the store more often for fewer items instead of putting it off until you have a long grocery list. And buy pre-prepared food items. You can cut down your cooking efforts by purchasing foods that are already washed and trimmed or chopped. Most stores offer fresh fruits and vegetables that are already peeled and diced into bite-size pieces. You can ask an employee at the butcher counter to slice or cube meats so they’re ready to cook when you are.

If possible, ask a friend or family member to accompany you, or ask a store employee to help with things that are bulky, heavy or hard to reach. Also, consider taking advantage of the home delivery services that many supermarkets and stores now offer – especially if you’re having a symptom flare. And choose wisely when buying your groceries. Healthy foods, such as fish, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables, are high in antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation, while processed foods may increase inflammation. By changing one or two shopping habits might make a noticeable difference in your levels of pain and stiffness after a trip to the shops.

Arthritis Organize Your Home for Better Accessibility

Keep items you use often within easy reach so you don’t need to bend and stretch to get your hands on what you need. Also, consider stocking up on supplies that you use in different rooms – so you can keep one set in each spot. For instance, keeping cleaning supplies in both the kitchen and the bathroom will make it easy to grab those cleaners when you need them. Small areas of clutter can easily become mountains of stuff if they’re not contained. Assess your home and identify clutter hotspots. Place a decorative container where you tend to empty your pockets. Organize bills and mail in a folder. Designate a place for your keys and mobile phone.

Take a look at items you frequently use and where you keep them. Then, reorganize in ways that make sense for you. If there’s an item you often use in your living room, but it’s stored in your bedroom, move it to your living room so it’s always at hand. You can also keep items you frequently use, such as a laptop, on a cart with wheels and move it from room to room as needed. Whether opening medication bottles or food containers, RA can make these such tasks difficult and painful. Ask your pharmacist to dispense your medications in easy-open bottles, Also, use openers that make the job easier. For example, there’s the Dycem Bottle Opener which helps remove childproof tops. A nutcracker or pliers with a long handle can assist in loosen bottle caps.

Many larger department stores and online suppliers sell a tool called a reacher. It can help you grab items located high up. Keep one handy in your home to reach items easily when no one is around to help. If you find yourself frequently using the reacher to perform the same task, consider moving the object to a more convenient location. Having arthritis can increase your risk of falls. Look around your home and get rid of anything that can cause you to trip. Pick up clutter on the floor. If you have rugs, make sure they’re secured to the floor. Use nonslip mats in showers and bathtubs. In the kitchen, there are countless tools and assistive devices available to make the preparation of meals easier. Replace your troublesome gadgets with those that make your life easier. Look for pots and pans with two handles instead of one. Use magnetic measuring cups and spoons that stick together so they’re easier to find in crowded drawers. Really, the list of gadgets out there is almost endless.

July-artworks-hbmcBreathing-Exercise-_2

As already discussed, stress is never pleasant and it can be particularly problematic for people with RA. High levels of stress can exacerbate its symptoms and increase inflammation. Fortunately, there are many self-help strategies that can overcome stress. Meditation is well recognized by medics, psychologists and of course followers of the Buddhist faith alike – and breathing exercises, particularly the practice of deep breathing – is at the forefront of such tried and tested methodology.

The simple act of breathing in and out may seem straightforward, but the way you choose to do so can make a big difference. For instance, taking shallow breaths into the top half of the lungs can be very energizing, while deep breathing into the diaphragm can help you focus your body and mind.

Breathing even deeper into your abdomen has been hailed as an important healing technique for centuries in yoga and meditation practices – there’s bound to be a meditation group where you live which you can join. When you begin to breathe with more control, patience, and deliberation, you can also change the way your body experiences and relays sensations, including pain. Deep, slow breathing activates a relaxation response, which automatically relaxes the tension in your muscles and deactivates the stress receptors. With each deep breath, you’re delivering more oxygen to your muscles, which lets those fibers release and relax.

Focusing on your breath invites you to shift your attention without forcing you to concentrate too much, and that is a great recipe for happy distraction. As you get the hang of your deep belly breathing, your thoughts will grow quieter and you’ll begin to enjoy the rhythm without critiquing your state of mind or body. As any chronic pain patient knows, distraction can be an excellent tool for pain relief. So, when you combine the physiological benefits of deep breathing (deactivating the stress receptors) with the natural distraction that comes along, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your pain seems to dull and dissipate. Try this:

  • Open your mouth and exhale. Now, close your mouth and take in a long, slow lung-full of air through the nostrils.
  • Keep your mouth closed and breathe out again through the nose – long, slow and controlled. With each inward breath, imagine that you are pushing the air into the center of your body and then out through the fingers and toes.
  • Each time you breathe in and out, that is considered a round. Do at least 7 or 8 rounds. You can stop once you begin to feel the relaxation radiate through your body and mind or continue with a few more similar breathing exercises for deeper relaxation.
  • While you’re doing this, close your eyes if possible. This enhances the benefits of each breath – it immediately activates the alpha brainwaves and prompts relaxation.

Prevention Methods for Arthritis Flare-ups

The fact is, once you’ve experienced an arthritis flare-up, you won’t ever forget it. The excruciating pain will put you on your guard against future attacks and certainly encourage you to develop a solid prevention plan. Flare-ups of RA, OA and lupus symptoms can occur after a period of disease remission. The exact causes of arthritis flares are not known, and it is important that you don’t blame yourself for disease recurrence. Maintaining your medication regimen and following a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, the right amount of sleep for you, managing stress and not smoking can `help reduce the risk of flare-ups.

Here are some tips for preventing an arthritis flare-up. While these tips come with no guarantee, they are common sense actions which will cut your chance of going into a flare-up.

  • Keep to your doctor’s treatment regime. Don’t skip your medications or other treatments. It is important to keep inflammation and pain under control. Skipping medications gives your body a chance to flare-up, allowing pain and inflammation to increase. Arthritis can be likened to the embers of a fire, smoldering and looking for an opportunity to re-ignite. Don’t knowingly help it ignite.
  • Keep moving. Exercise can maintain a range-of-motion in the joints and assist muscle strength. But, at the same time, it is important not to overdo activities. Overdoing activities and ignoring physical limitations can provoke a flare-up, defeating the objective of your efforts.
  • It is important not to stress joints or add an extra burden to the mechanics of them, especially with those already affected by arthritis. Following a few simple principles can help us protect the joints and, by doing so, decrease pain and inflammation and the risk of a flare-up.
  • Stress has a negative impact on arthritis. While in real life is not without stress, try and do what you can to simplify your life: organize your day, conserve energy, and develop an attitude of acceptance. Meditation can help.
  • Getting proper rest and sleep is important. People with arthritis need to rest their bodies even more than the average, healthy human. But don’t become sedentary – strike a balance between rest and activity. Disrupted sleep, especially on a regular basis, seems to increase pain and the risk of a flare-up, but of course, it can be a vicious cycle at times, with arthritis causing restlessness at night, so making the condition worse.
  • Some claim certain foods increase inflammation and make arthritis symptoms worse. This is likely the most individual tip of all those mentioned so far. If you are aware that certain foods make your arthritis feel worse, simple. Steer clear of them. Just don’t eat foods that you know might trigger inflammation.

Females have a lighter skeletal framework, and they tend to lose bone mass during and after the menopause. The tendons become looser and less strong in women compared to men, increasing the risk of injury. The female hormone estrogen has a protective effect on the bones – but once levels of this fall, for example […]

If you or a loved one afflicted are afflicted with arthritis, a fruity solution to getting the most out of life again is at hand. Revered since ancient times as the Fruit of Life, the pomegranate is truly living up to its hallowed tag in the fight against arthritic pain. Long recognised for its anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-tumour properties – as well as being a rich source of essential vitamins – recent clinical research shows that the juicy red seeds of the pomegranate can also be potent alleviators of rheumatoid arthritis pain.

In a study published in the Journal of Inflammation, conducted by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, it was found that the extract from pomegranate seeds is able to suppress human mast basophil cells. These cells promote inflammatory reactions and encourage the breakdown of cartilage, a common symptom of arthritis.

If you or a loved one afflicted are afflicted with arthritis, a fruity solution to getting the most out of life again is at hand. Revered since ancient times as the Fruit of Life, the pomegranate is truly living up to its hallowed tag in the fight against arthritic pain. Long recognised for its anti-oxidant, […]

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