Saturday, March 7, 2015

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Part 1 of 3: Overview

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. When someone has RA, their immune system mistakenly attacks the joints as well as other organs and tissues.

According to Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of RA are directly related to joint damage. Additional symptoms are due to the widespread effects of an overactive immune system.

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Part 2 of 3: Common Symptoms

Common Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is named after its effects on the joints. However, the autoimmune symptoms it causes can affect systems throughout the body.
Joint Pain and Swelling

The primary symptom of RA is joint damage. Symptoms usually begin in the smaller joints. RA typically starts in the fingers and wrists. This causes pain and swelling in the hands. Other joints commonly affected by RA include:

Affected joints may feel warm and spongy to the touch. According to Mayo Clinic, joint damage caused by RA is almost always symmetrical. This means that if your left hand is affected, your right hand will be as well.

Symmetrical symptoms are one of the things that distinguish RA from osteoarthritis (OA). Since OA is caused by physical wear and tear on joints, it’s less likely to be symmetrical. OA is the type of arthritis most people associate with aging.
Fever and Fatigue

Although joint pain is the most characteristic symptom of RA, it’s not always the first symptom. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), many people with RA first experience a low-grade fever (under 100 F) and extreme fatigue for four to six hours after waking up. However, these early signs and symptoms may not be automatically associated with RA. Fever and fatigue can be caused by far too many other health conditions, even the common cold. There is usually no reason for a doctor to suspect RA until joint symptoms appear.

Prolonged stiffness upon waking is another symptom that can help distinguish RA from other forms of arthritis.

RA is also associated with stiffness after a long period of inactivity, such as sitting or lying down. This stiffness usually lasts an hour or more. In general, stiffness from other types of arthritis lasts for shorter periods of time.
Rheumatoid Nodules

According to Mayo Clinic, rheumatoid nodules are hard, flesh-colored lumps that may appear under the skin of the arms. They can range from pea-size to walnut-size. They may be either movable or firmly connected to tendons under the skin. Rheumatoid nodules are a symptom of advanced RA.

Part 3 of 3: Other Symptoms

Other Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA can affect a number of organs throughout the body. However, this type of damage is not common. The symptoms below are associated with more severe or advanced disease.
Dry Mouth and Eyes

Rheumatoid arthritis is often associated with Sjögren's syndrome. This is a condition where the immune system attacks the salivary glands and tear ducts. This can cause:

dry or gritty sensations in the eyes, mouth, and throat
cracked or peeling lips
difficulty talking or swallowing

Some people with RA also experience other discomfort in their eyes including:


Pleurisy is a severe tightness or sharp pain in the chest when breathing. It’s caused by inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs.

Advanced RA can cause severe joint damage. The hands and fingers may bend at unnatural angles. This can give them a gnarled and twisted appearance. Such joint deformities can also interfere with movement. Other joints that may become damaged in this way include the:


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Change Your Diet, Ease Your Pain

Arthritis, a form of rheumatic disease, is characterized by inflammation and loss of function in some parts of the body. Osteoarthritis damages cartilage, joints, and bones. It’s the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 27 million Americans according to the CDC.

Rheumatoid arthritis is another form of arthritis that attacks the synovial lining of joints, causing pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function. A growing body of research suggests that dietary changes may help alleviate the chronic pain associated with this condition.

Click through the slideshow to see which eight foods to add to your daily diet.

Omega-3 Fats

A substantial amount of research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may prevent inflammation in the body and reduce symptoms associated with arthritis. Researchers from the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health have discovered that the COX-2 enzymes that cause joint inflammation are more active when you eat a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-6 fats are prevalent in the American diet, found in meat, corn, snack foods, and sunflower oil. Try reducing your intake of these fats while increasing your consumption of healthy omega-3 fats, which are found in salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, flaxseeds and walnuts.


Apparently, Mom knew what she was talking about when she told you to eat your broccoli. According to a Mayo Clinic 11-year study, broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables were shown to protect against the development of arthritis.

Although this study examined the chance of arthritis development rather than pain management, it wouldn’t hurt to add cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and bok choy to your regular diet.

Vitamin D

A large study of 29,000 women without a history of arthritis found that those who consumed more dietary vitamin D had a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The findings from aFramingham Heart Study showed a decreased risk of osteoarthritis progression in the knees of participants who consumed greater amounts of vitamin D.

Besides oily fish, few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Certain foods, such as dairy products and bread, may be fortified with vitamin D. Dairy, however, may exacerbate arthritis inflammation and pain. Consider a 20-minute stroll to take in some vitamin D-stimulating sunlight—the best source.


Ginger has been used for thousands of years to treat colds, nausea, migraines, and hypertension. Although clinical studies report mixed resultsregarding ginger’s role in arthritis, the Journal of Medicinal Food gives evidence to support the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant role of ginger.

To add more ginger to your diet, try grating fresh ginger over sautéed vegetables, adding sliced ginger to tea, and sprinkling ground ginger in baked good batters.

NOTE: Ginger acts as a blood thinner, which could interact with blood thinning medication. Be sure to check with your physician before adding these foods to your diet.

Vitamin C

Start putting vitamin C-rich bell peppers, oranges, mangos, strawberries, pineapple, and kidney beans on your grocery list. According to one study, greater intake of vitamin C was associated with a 30 percent reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Choose dietary sources of vitamin C rather than supplements, as high doses have been known to exacerbate symptoms of arthritis. According to the USDA, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 90 mg/day for men and 75 mg/day for women.


Beta-cryptoxanthin is a powerful antioxidant of the carotenoid family. Like its sister, beta-carotene, a nutrient found in carrots, beta-cryptoxanthin is converted to vitamin A in the body and may help prevent arthritis.

Researchers from the United Kingdom found that those who consumed more foods containing beta-cryptoxanthin were better protected against arthritis. Foods with the highest amount of beta-cryptoxanthin include sweet peppers, squash, pumpkin, papayas, tangerines, collard greens, and apricots.


Anthocyanidins are potent antioxidants responsible for the reddish pigment in foods like cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, and eggplant. A Harvard School of Public Health study that examined C-reactive protein (CRP) levels as a marker of inflammation in cardiovascular health found that higher strawberry intake was associated with lower CRP levels.

Although the study focused on cardiovascular health, there are implications for arthritis patients, as the anthocyanidins found in strawberries and other foods may help reduce inflammation.

Your Overall Anti-Arthritis Diet

Overall, you should aim for a diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, legumes, and olive oil. Limit or avoid red meat, dairy, saturated fats, and sugar to help prevent arthritis and manage arthritis-related inflammation and pain.