Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which your immune system attacks your own body tissue. Usually it affects joints, starting in the fingers or toes. It may later progress through the wrists, elbows and shoulders, or ankles, knees and hips. Usually symptoms affect both sides of the body symmetrically. Over time, rheumatoid arthritis can cause joints to become deformed. They can slip out of alignment as they lose their shape. This can lead to severe disabilities and challenges with daily activities.
In about 40% of cases, rheumatoid arthritis attacks body systems other than the joints, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, nerves, bone marrow, blood vessels or salivary glands. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause severe fatigue.
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis sometimes include:
- Tender, swollen joints
- Joint stiffness (usually worse after inactivity)
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can vary from mild to severe. Symptoms tend to fluctuate in severity as well. Periods of high inflammation and disease activity are called ‘flares’, which alternate with periods of remission.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis are Different
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is the result of wear and tear over time on the cap of a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, affects the protective membrane lining the joint, which results in painful swelling. It can lead to deformity in the joints and severe physical disability over time.
Rheumatoid Arthritis can Affect Anyone
It is unclear what exactly triggers rheumatoid arthritis. It affects women, men and even children of all ages, although it most commonly begins in the 40’s or 50’s. Doctors suspect that there may be a genetic component to RA. It may be triggered by environmental exposures, such as asbestos or silica. RA can be hard to diagnose in the beginning because its symptoms often look like other diseases.
Senior Care can Help
Seniors with rheumatoid arthritis may need a variable amount of help and support as their symptoms flare up and settle down. The fatigue, pain and joint stiffness can interfere with daily activities including shopping, cooking and housework, as well as mobility and personal care.
Senior care aides are professional caregivers who come into the homes of seniors who need help due to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Senior care aides can tailor the amount of help they provide based on how much the senior needs on a given day. This can help the senior retain their independence to the greatest degree possible, while still ensuring they have the help they need when they need it.
Senior care aides can help with housework, laundry and meal preparation. They can help with bathing, dressing and other personal care tasks. They can also assist with transportation, helping the senior in and out of the car, and even managing a walker or lightweight wheelchair if needed. Senior care aides can also go shopping or run errands on the behalf of the senior, so if they prefer to stay home and conserve their energy, that’s an option.
Life with rheumatoid arthritis can be a challenge at times, but senior care can reduce the burden and help older adults with RA to live their best life.