While osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, which affects about 2.1 million Americans, is the most severe type. The condition, which has nothing to do with wear and tear, actually is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to turn on itself, attacking not only the joints but sometimes the heart, lungs and eyes as well. Most sufferers are stricken between the ages of 25 and 50. And women are about three times more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Unlike osteoarthritis, which affects specific joints, rheumatoid arthritis causes an overall achiness and stiffness that comes and goes. In addition, the disease, which has no cure, tends to launch symmetrical assaults, affecting both hands or feet for example.
During flare-ups, aspirin or another anti-inflammatory can provide relief. Heat treatments and massage can also ease joint and muscle pain.
To reduce episodes and enhance range of motion, regular exercise during periods of remission is essential. The key is knowing your limits and balancing exercise with rest.
With proper medical care and a sound lifestyle, there is no reason why those with rheumatoid arthritis can’t enjoy long, productive lives.