Closeup of female arms holding her painful wrist caused by prolonged work on the computer, laptop, coloured in red/Carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, neurological disease concept/Numbness of the hand

6 Things That Can Make Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Worse

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system starts to attack healthy joints throughout the body leading to inflammation and pain. If left untreated, it can cause damage and deformation. Though it’s an incurable disease, with proper management it’s possible to slow it down and prevent severe joint damage. Proper timely treatment will help you live a healthier life and preserve your mobility. There are also some habits you should avoid to help support your RA management and alleviate joint pain: 

1. Having unmanaged stress 

Stress often accompanies chronic diseases, as it might be sometimes frustrating to have an incurable disease and undergo long-term treatment, among other things. Prolonged stress can also worsen joint pain by affecting your immune function and exacerbating your rheumatoid arthritis. What’s more, it can increase cytokines, inflammatory proteins and raise chronic inflammation.                     

2. Having extra weight 

Excess weight puts extra stress on your joints, thus exacerbating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, worsening, joint pain, and rising your risk for other health issues like heart disease. A study published in October 2019 in the journal Advances in Rheumatology has found that obesity is a common problem among rheumatoid arthritis patients and is linked to RA disease activity. 

Weight loss and weight management will help you improve your symptoms and control the disease more effectively. If you have severe obesity and can’t lose weight, talk to a weight loss surgeon. Bariatric surgery might be your option.  

3. Following a diet poor in omega-3s 

Foods that are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, seeds, salmon, and other cold-water fish, might help combat RA pain and chronic inflammation. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, high omega-3 consumption could help control rheumatoid arthritis as well as other inflammatory health conditions. 

A meta-analysis published in January 2018 in the journal Nutrition has shown that increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can improve rheumatoid arthritis as well as lower inflammation. The best sources of these acids are fish, flaxseed, and foods fortified with omega-3s, or omega-3 containing supplements. If you choose to take supplements, first talk to your healthcare provider about it. 

4. Smoking 

Smoking can do a number to your health in different ways. It not only puts you at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis but also can worsen joint pain in those who have the condition. Smoking makes it harder to manage RA and reduces the effectiveness of RA medications. 

Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers who continue to smoke have increased levels of certain chemical markers in their body that promote joint damage and can lead to flares, even with treatment. Smoking has also been linked to higher pain scores, more active disease, and lower chances of achieving disease remission.

5. Delaying RA treatment 

Waiting to talk to your doctor about your symptoms can make it harder to manage joint pain. Therefore the Arthritis Foundation recommends early and aggressive treatment. Catching rheumatoid arthritis early is the most essential thing people can do to make sure joint damage doesn’t progress. 

Most cases of joint damage and cartilage destruction have been detected in people with rheumatoid arthritis during their first two years of the condition. This has a direct effect on long-term function, disability, and mortality.  

Timely treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologics will help slow down the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and prevent severe joint damage. Speak with your healthcare provider and they will help make an RA treatment plan that’s right for you.

6. Being inactive 

People with any type of arthritis need to be physically active. Arthritis patients who have regular exercise have better daily functioning, higher energy levels, and less joint pain. An inactive lifestyle can harm your overall health and raise your risk of many dangerous conditions such as heart disease. Physical activity has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties that are extremely beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis. 


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Written by Amelia Grant

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