Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis? Here is What You Can Do About It
If you've recently been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, you may feel like the world is caving in, but a diagnosis does not have to change who you are. Below is a list of steps you can take to eliminate some of the fear associated with RA.
A rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis can be scary. RA is an autoimmune disorder, where your immune system attacks healthy cells- leading to joint pain. RA can affect any person at any age, but is most common in middle-aged women.
Fears about the diagnosis are common. Patients may wonder if they will be able to continue working, if they will be a burden to family members, or if the condition will get worse over time. Many RA patients experience feelings of stress, depression, guilt, anxiety, anger, and grief.
Luckily, it is possible to manage a RA diagnosis and prevent some of the feelings of fear associated with the condition. As with most things, the first place to start is with education.
According to Rheumatology.org, RA is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells throughout the body. This causes chronic inflammation in the joints which can cause stiffness and pain. RA is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis, and an estimated 1.3 million adults in the United States have the condition.
Most patients who suffer from RA have the condition because an immune system response create inflammatory chemicals in the synovium, which creates a cushion between the joints. The inflammatory chemicals may also attack the cartilage cushioning the joints. This, naturally, causes widespread pain and swelling.
If you are diagnosed with RA, feelings of fear and anxiety are common. Use the following steps to alleviate some of the common concerns about the disease:
If you don’t understand the condition, you are more likely to fear it. Luckily, it is easy to research the condition online today and find hundreds of helpful resources. According to Arthritis Self Management.com, researching RA can not only help alleviate symptoms, but help you find solutions for preventing the condition from getting worse and maybe even reverse the condition completely.
At the very least, you will understand everything your doctor is talking about and be able to research the potential side effects of different medication and treatment options.
Sure, it’s difficult to stay positive when you’ve just been diagnosed with a disease, but a positive mindset can help keep dark thoughts at bay. Try to think about at least one positive thing a day, and think about something fun you can do despite the pain and diagnosis! Ultimately, a diagnosis means that now you have a clear problem you can address with healing and lifestyle changes, which is definitely a positive thought!
Sleep does the body good. When you get enough sleep, your body can heal a lot of problems on its own. Try relieving stress as much as possible before bed to promote sleep. Clear the mind of distractions, drink a relaxing beverage, take a hot bath, and read an uplifting book right before you drift off. Forcing your body to hold a relaxed position and unclench your muscles to promote healthy sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
A study from Canada found that support helped RA patients cope better and ease painful symptoms. Whether your RA is mild or severe, getting support and realizing you are not alone can help reduce the feelings of helplessness and anger that often go along with a diagnosis of RA. There are many support groups available for RA- both online and offline. Ask your doctor to suggest groups you can join.
Although it can become easy to get wrapped up in your identity as a person with RA, try to focus on your identity in the rest of your life. Acknowledge that you have the right to struggle and feel angry at the diagnosis. Admitting it is alright to have feelings is healthier than trying to suppress those feelings.
You may find that once you recognize your right to feel that way that you start to have a hopeful outlook on the future. It might be helpful to consider what the diagnosis really changes. It may feel like the world is ending, but a RA diagnosis does not have to affect all areas of life. There may be entire sections of your life where you can live just as you did before.
Although there are a lot of natural treatment options for RA, the truth is that everything will not work for every person. Some people may find that natural methods completely eliminate their RA symptoms, while others may not have such significant benefit and may also have to take traditional medicine.
Even if alternative products work well for you, it may take longer than you hoped, which means you will need traditional medicine to ease the pain until symptoms subside. Working with a healthcare provider can help you find the optimal balance between natural and traditional methods that will create a customized solution that will help you life as normally as possible.
Discuss all aspects of treatment with your doctor- including alternatives to medicine and lifestyle changes, symptoms, side effects, and anything else you can think of. Your doctor can help you find the best treatment plan if the two of you have a steady line of communication on both sides.
Your life may be uncertain after a diagnosis for RA, but thinking about what the future might look like can help reduce some anxiety and stress. The exact details about the future are unknown, but if you think about what you would like to see, you can help create a vision for the future that is positive and helpful for your newly diagnosed disease.
Use the following ideas to envision the right future:
Give yourself permission to have a future. It is easy to think of today only after receiving a shocking diagnosis, but you can and will have a future. Thinking about the future may feel bleak, but with the help of family, friends, and professional support, you will be able to find a way to live a happy life and fulfilling future even with RA. Speaking with a therapist can help identify the right mindset to help deal with any worry and anxiety you may be feeling.
Think about what you would like to see in the future. Think of how you can still reach those goals with your diagnosis. You may need to modify the ideas a little to make room for the disease, but thinking about the future can be helpful in creating an effective treatment plan for RA. Find other individuals with RA and consult them to identify how they live with the condition. This can help you plan a more accurate goal plan.
Ask your doctor how you can remain as healthy as possible. Research shows that certain lifestyle and diet changes (outlined below) can have a positive impact on RA symptoms. A variety of health professionals, including nutritionists and exercise coaches can offer healthy living advice to help you live the best life possible.
Scientists and medical professionals still are unsure what precisely causes certain autoimmune diseases to form, but the scientific community has come up with several theories about the cause:
Since the exact cause of autoimmune disorders and RA is unknown, it is difficult to identify natural changes that can heal the condition or prevent it from getting worse. However, some research has indicated that the following natural treatment options for RA might be helpful:
No matter what disease or problem in the body you have, eating a healthier diet can provide the building blocks the body needs to heal itself. In general, eating less junk food, reducing sugar and grain intake, eating animal-based omega-3 fats, and eating unprocessed foods will have a positive effect, even if it does nothing to completely eliminate symptoms.
According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, making the following diet changes could be helpful in reducing symptoms, stiffness, and pain:
A Swedish study in 2003 found that RA patients who ate a lot of fruit, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, and cereals showed a reduction in stiffness and pain.
According to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, food allergies can make RA symptoms work. Sometimes, a patient may not even realize they are allergic to the food, but when they eat that food, RA symptoms are worse. Getting allergy tested can help identify allergens that may be making RA symptoms worse.
Exercise is beneficial for preventing RA symptoms and relieving joint pain and swelling. According to the American College of Rheumatology, patients with RA who exercise regularly have more energy, sleep better, perform better, and have less pain from day to day. Exercise can keep joints flexible, which can deter some RA pain.
Studies show that certain nutrients can be beneficial in alleviating RA symptoms. Ensure your intake of the following nutrients is high- either in natural or supplement form.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for many of the body’s systems, including the immune system. A 2012 study conducted by Red Cross Hospital in Greece found that not only did most study participants with RA have reduced vitamin D levels, but that the level of vitamin D deficiency also correlated with the severity of the condition. More research is needed, but getting outside in the sun and supplementing with vitamin D is likely effective in alleviating some pain associated with RA.
Joint Strengthening Nutrients: A combination of nutrients have been shown to improve the health of the joints by providing the right building blocks to prevent tissue deterioration in the joints. These nutrients include, Chondroitin Sulfate, Hyaluronic Acid, and Boron.
Natural Anti-Inflammatories: Certain foods have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. These foods include:
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a nutrient that has been shown to alleviate some of the symptoms of RA. According to a study conducted in Great Britain in 2004, individuals who have low levels of vitamin C are three times more likely to develop RA than individuals who have higher levels of vitamin C. The USDA still recommends that women consume around 75 mg of vitamin C daily, while men consume 90 mg daily. Red fruits and vegetables in addition to the popular orange typically carry a high amount of vitamin C.
Vitamin B3: The effects of vitamin B3 on RA patients has been studied for several decades. The first study to really offer an insight into the effectiveness of vitamin B3 was conducted by William Kaufman, Ph.D., M.D. in 1950. He later went on to write the book entitled, The Common Form of Joint Dysfunction.”
Dr. Kaufman recommended dosing with vitamin B3 in doses as large as 5,000 mg, spread throughout the day in several smaller doses. His research found that frequent smaller doses were more effective than larger, less-frequent doses. According to his research, vitamin B3 works directly in the joint area to reduce stiffness and pain in all joints.
However, his research did find that if the joints were highly damaged, supplementing with vitamin B3 was not enough to reverse the effects.
Even though diagnosis of a disease is scary, it does not have to end your life, or even become your life. Working through the steps outlined above can help you manage your disease, rather than allowing your disease to manage you. Combining the positive thinking changes along with a regular communication between doctor and patient, can go a long way toward removing the fear from diagnosis.
Additionally, lifestyle and diet changes can go a long way toward reducing the pain and stiffness associated with RA. You may never be able to go back to the person you were before, but you can make the person you are now healthy, strong, and brave. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with RA, the natural treatment options outlined above may be able to help you prevent your own eventual RA diagnosis.
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