Rheumatoid arthritis awareness week is taking place from 18th-24th June. Building on the back of the 2017 campaign (#behindthesmile) and raise more awareness for this invisible illness and the impact it has on those living with it.
The 2018 campaign is #ReframeRA
The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) are asking supporters, whether you have RA yourself, are a family member, friend or healthcare professional to film themselves talking about RA. The video can be between 30-60 seconds and should be based around one or more of the topics below:
· How RA affects your joints on a day to day basis and how you’ve overcome obstacles
· How RA is about more than just joints– does RA affect your eyes, heart lungs or other areas?
· How RA has affected your work or education
· Any experiences you have had with your disease feeling invisible e.g. reactions from friends and family, or the general public about it
· NRAS also want to hear from friends, family, colleagues– how has your RA affected them? Has it made them learn more about the disease? How have they supported you?
· How does having RA affect you emotionally?
· Healthcare professionals– how has RA affected your patients? What support can rheumatology teams give them?
What is RA?
· RA is an autoimmune condition, this means that your body’s immune system has mistaken your body as a target. Normally the immune system is designed to protect your body from infection but sometimes the immune system becomes too active and mistakenly attacks your body.
· Your immune system attacks the lining of your joints (synovial lining) which causes inflammation and symptoms such as pain and stiffness.
· RA is a symmetrical arthritis, meaning it usually affects both sides of the body in a similar pattern, although this is not always the case.
· It tends to affect the small joints of the hands and feet first.
· RA is a systemic disease, which means that it doesn’t just affect the joints but can impact the whole system, including organs such as the lungs, heart and eyes.
· About 1% of the UK population has RA, affecting women more than men and commonly develops between 40-60 years of age.
What are the symptoms?
· Pain, swelling and possibly redness around your joints.
· Stiffness in your joints when you wake up in the morning, or after sitting for a while, which lasts for more than 30 minutes and has no other obvious cause.
· Fatigue that’s more than just normal tiredness.
· There is no single test which diagnoses RA.
· Diagnosis is usually made or confirmed by a consultant rheumatologist who is trained to identify synovitis.
· Diagnosis takes into account the type of symptoms, inflammatory markers in blood tests, joint imaging, family history and any other co-morbidities.
What treatment is available?
· Taking medication is necessary in RA as this is used to reduce the inflammation and get your disease under control.
· Analgesics can be used to help control pain
· Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce inflammation and improve pain and stiffness
· Corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation
· Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can be used to reduce the immune system ‘attack’ and control the disease over the long term and reduce/prevent damage
Looking after yourself
There’s also a lot you can do to help yourself. There’s lots of information on our Living with RA section about these and other topics.
· Keep at a healthy weight. If you’re overweight it puts an undue stress on your weight-bearing joints, so losing weight is really important
· Try to reduce your cholesterol. People with RA can have an increased risk of heart disease and strokes in later life.
· Try to stop smoking. Evidence strongly suggests that smoking may increase the risk of developing RA. Smoking may also affect the severity of rheumatoid arthritis once it does develop.
· Physical activity is vital to help keep your joints moving, and there’s good evidence that exercise also helps to relieve pain.
· Learn to pace yourself, because tiredness or fatigue is so common in RA. Overdoing things can be like taking two steps forward and three steps back.