Self Help with Long Term Rheumatic Disease

Self Help with Long Term Rheumatic Disease

1. What is Rheumatic disease

Rheumatic diseases affect the musculoskeletal system of the body consequently resulting in damage to the joints, muscles and connective tissues. This condition includes more than 200 types of rheumatic diseases. Osteoarthritis (OA), Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, Ankylosing spondylitis, Psoriatic arthritis, Polymyalgia rheumatic, Fibromyalgia, Infectious arthritis, Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, etc are some of the observed arthritic conditions.

Among them the most frequently occurring inflammatory rheumatic diseases comprise of rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthropathies. Connective tissue diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma or dermatomyositis, occur with a lesser frequency.

The common presenting complaints of this disease include red, swollen, tender, stiff, and inflamed joints restricting regular day-to-day activites, limiting mobility subsequently leading to progressive disability as the condition progresses. In many instances patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS) or psoriatic arthritis often discontinue working and rely on a disability pension for their living. In cases of rheumatic diseases having systemic involvement, multiple organ failures can ensue leading to death, a major consequence.

2. Self care

Patients with rheumatic diseases do have an equally important role in management of their disease condition. As the disease is chronic it is characterized by an unpredictable course, with periods of exacerbation and remission of disease activity. Therefore self-care of the patient’s with assistance of the health care professionals can help relieve pain, prevent joint destructions, and improve patient’s overall functioning.

Treatment of rheumatic diseases generally comprise of a combination of rest, exercise, and medication. The regimen needs to be constantly adjusted to the changing disease activity. Therefore, the patient has to learn adjusting the treatment regimen, and exercise, according to the varying disease activity. Patient education can help make informed decisions about adjustments in the treatment regimens. Apart from this practice of relaxation exercises, employing joint protection measures and strategies for coping with pain and stress helps combat the disease activity effectively.

Patients with RA tend to lose bone at a faster rate than those without RA, so optimizing consumption of calcium and vitamin D constitutes one important self-care measure for RA patients. Similarly smoking cessation by patients with RA helps reduce or prevent the development of chronic respiratory disease.

3. Lifestyle changes

A risk factor is any attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury. Considerable modifiable risk factors accountable to the causation of rheumatic diseases can effectively be restrained by lifestyle changes

• People who are overweight are more predisposed to knee, and hip osteoarthritis because of the increased pressure on the joints. Maintaining a healthy weight by appropriate nutrition and physical activity helps not decrease the risk of arthritis but helps reduces arthritic pain and stiffness in already established rheumatic disease patients
• Joint injury or repetitive stress can damage a joint and contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint. Protecting joints from injuries by employing joint protection measures helps decrease the arthritic risk
• Cigarette smoking increases an individual’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and can progress the disease in already established rheumatic disease patients. Smoking cessation is an effective measure that can help prevent and manage conditions.
• Stress and anxiety can exacerbate the existing symptoms of arthritis. Relaxation techniques can help manage this stress and anxiety
• Eating an anti-inflammatory diet i.e. foods containing omega-3s, such as salmon and olive oil can have an anti-inflammatory effect and reduce the lower overall inflammation levels in the body