Sep 30, 2016
20 Things Everyone Should Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis
10. Lung Disease Is Common in RA Patients
Lung disease is particularly common among those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Although serious diseases of the lung are less common, approximately 50 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients have subclinical lung disease. This simply refers to the airways becoming inflamed, which can double the risk of developing COPD and even increase the risk of tuberculosis. This has led some scientists and medical researchers to wonder if rheumatoid arthritis may actually start in the lung, but more evidence is needed to determine whether or not this is the case.
11. RA Inflammation Can Be Altered With Diet
You may be under the impression that medication therapy is always suggested as a first course of action for those suffering from symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. However, lifestyle changes such as those concerned with diet are also at the top of the list of RA treatments. This is because certain foods have anti-inflammatory properties, while other foods may even make rheumatoid arthritis worse.
If you suffer from the condition, your doctor may suggest that you consume certain fruits and vegetables that contain phytonutrients that can help reduce inflammation. These include sweet potatoes, berries, kale and turmeric.
Your doctor may also suggest you try to reduce omega 6 fatty acids in your diet. Unlike omega 3s – which are anti-inflammatory and found in fish, for example – omega 6 fatty acids can cause inflammation in the body. Omega 6s are high in industrial seed oils, like grape seed oil, sunflower oil, margarine and shortening, and in many meats and animal products. Grass fed beef, Pork Chops, free range eggs and chicken are likely to have much lower levels of omega 6s. Bison is a great alternative to other meats as well – it tends to be naturally low in omega 6s and high in omega 3s.
12. Vitamin D Levels Are Linked With RA and Other Autoimmune Disorders
Since 2004, extensive studies have been conducted on women to determine if a lack of vitamin D increases their risk for rheumatoid arthritis. One large study completed in 2008 on almost 30,000 women discovered that the group with the highest risk of developing the disorder also had the lowest intake of vitamin D.
Scientists have not yet been able to find the exact reason for this, and therefore cannot prove their theories definitively. Nevertheless, in the aforementioned extensive study there does seem to be a specific link between low vitamin D and developing RA. You may also find it interesting to remember that those who live in high altitudes, where sunlight may be scant are also at a higher risk for the disorder. This is yet more evidence that perhaps vitamin D–which is produced naturally in the body in response to direct sunlight–plays a bigger role than initially thought concerning the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
Another interesting fact is that other autoimmune disorders are linked to vitamin D deficiency, such as multiple sclerosis, for which a definitive link has now been found between the development of the disease and the lack of vitamin D. Again, this disorder is also far more prevalent in cold, damp geographical locations than in areas where sunshine is abundant.
Vitamin D deficiencies are much more common among women than men, although regardless of your gender, you should speak to your doctor about supplements or lifestyle changes if you suspect you are not consuming an adequate amount of this vitamin.
13. More Live Births = Less RA
A little-known fact about rheumatoid arthritis is that women who have never experienced a live birth have an increased risk of developing the disorder. Researchers have not made much progress in discovering why this is the case. Some studies are focused on determining if perhaps it is the other way around, and giving birth to a child decreases a woman’s overall risk for rheumatoid arthritis, rather than something specifically to do with not having children that increases the risk.
Various scientists have different schools of thought regarding this matter, but some suggest that women who have never had children be screened for rheumatoid arthritis approximately every five years after they reach age 45. This is something you may wish to speak to your doctor about if you have never given birth.
14. Depression and RA Are Companions
For reasons unknown to medical science, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you are much more likely to suffer from clinical depression than those who do not suffer from the disease. This was once believed to be simply depression from the fact that one is in constant pain, but new studies have determined there may be more to this phenomenon. For example, high levels of an inflammatory protein factor called TNF-a in a person’s bloodstream may be linked to clinical depression.
Additionally, some of the drugs used to treat RA can lead to mental depression when taken at high doses. These include steroids, NSAIDs that work on a hormonal level and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS).
15. Traffic Pollution Plays a Role in RA Development
Pollution through microscopic particles that humans inhale is linked to all types of inflammation. You may not realize you are inhaling these particles, but if you live in an area where you are exposed to at least some traffic or factory exhaust, you are breathing in these pollutants.
Harvard scientists completed a 2009 study of almost 100,000 individuals living in the United States to take a closer look at the relationship between traffic pollution and rheumatoid arthritis. They found that those living within a third of a mile of a major highway had the highest risk of developing the disorder when compared with other groups participating in the study who live farther away. If you live close to a highway or even a factory, speak to your doctor about lifestyle changes or other things you can do to offset this exposure to pollutants.
16. Steroids Are a Common RA Medication
Some patients are surprised to learn that steroids are often one of the best medications for rheumatoid arthritis. This is because the disorder is a result of the immune system attacking your own body, and therefore medications such as prednisone, a drug classed as a corticosteroid, can be very helpful in alleviating acute symptoms.
However, because such drugs have severe side effects and also suppress the immune system (subsequently leading to recurring colds or other illnesses), doctors are usually hesitant to recommend them on a long-term basis. For this reason, it is wise to speak to the prescribing doctor if he or she has suggested long-term use of prednisone or other steroids for you or someone you love.
17. RA Is On the Rise Among Women
RA is on the rise among U.S. women for the first time in 40 years, and some interesting statistics have emerged since 2010, when the Mayo Clinic released a report that RA is twice as common in women than men. Furthermore, risk rates among men dropped between 1995 and 2007.
Researchers are not clear why, but speculate it may be connected to cigarettes, as statistics show that females are not quitting this habit as quickly as males, and scientists speculate that perhaps the combination of smoking and the aforementioned higher vitamin D deficiency in women than men may be a combination that considerably increases the risk.
18. Rheumatoid Arthritis Is Affected Both Positively and Negatively By Alcohol Consumption
Drinking alcohol is not recommended for those with rheumatoid arthritis, as similar to certain drugs, it could be harmful to the liver. Nevertheless, research suggests that individuals who drink a glass of red wine a day are at a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than those who do not include wine as part of their diet. This may be because light to moderate intake of wine has an anti-inflammatory effect.
However, it is important to remember that you should not drink alcohol if you have already been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, if you are a non-drinker, it is not recommended that you begin drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage solely for the purpose of attempting to lower your risk of RA.