Preventing RA

Rheumatoid Arthritis
on February 29, 2012

Though preventing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is impossible with current medical knowledge, it is possible to help slow or prevent the damage that causes the more severe symptoms of the disease. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease with no known cure, and it’s really not clear what determines who gets it. Unlike most other types of arthritis, RA is not tied to age or mechanical damage factors (though it is more common after 40), and it has no clear genetic ties. With this in mind, preventing or reducing the symptoms of RA becomes the primary goal of treatment. Once damage has been done, it may not be able to heal, but a number of timely treatment methods may prevent some damage in the first place.

Lifestyle changes. Rheumatoid arthritis does seem to be more prevalent in smokers, so kicking the nicotine is one of the top suggestions for preventing RA. The Mayo Clinic states, “Self-care measures, when used along with your rheumatoid arthritis medications, can help you manage your signs and symptoms.” These measures include regular exercise to help strengthen the support around damaged joints, reducing stress, and applying alternating hot and cold compresses to help reduce the pain in tender joints. Certain fatty acids, such as those present in fish oil, may also be beneficial.

Medical treatments. Your doctor will most likely recommend a combination of drug therapy and lifestyle changes for preventing the worst of your RA symptoms. These drugs may include anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, immunosuppressants and TNF inhibitors, among others. The exact treatments your doctor chooses will likely depend on the severity of the symptoms, as well as what parts of your body are being threatened. While joint pain is often the most noticeable RA symptom, the disease can also attack major organs and other bodily systems. In general, leading a healthy lifestyle with a well-balanced diet may help protect your body, ensure there are no nutrient deficiencies that could exacerbate the problems, and improve the body's ability to fight off the effects of rheumatoid arthritis by giving it the best possible chance to heal.