Rheumatoid Arthritis Myths


Due to an abundance of easy-to-find (however not all the time correct) data, many individuals have misconceptions about rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Possibly you’ve heard that RA is only a regular signal of ageing or that it occurs due to put on in your joints. (Each are unfaithful.) Right here, two rheumatologists clarify the reality behind a few of the commonest myths about RA.

Fable 1: Solely older adults can get RA.

Adults and youngsters alike can develop RA, says Max Konig, MD, a rheumatologist at Johns Hopkins College Faculty of Drugs in Baltimore. He says this false impression is perhaps floating round as a result of youngsters are sometimes recognized with a subtype of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) reasonably than RA. Youngsters with this sort of JIA — often known as polyarticular arthritis, rheumatoid issue constructive — have a protein referred to as rheumatoid factor (RF) or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP antibodies) that exhibits up of their blood, as do most individuals with RA.

RA really turns into rarer as you become old, notes Nilanjana Bose, MD, a rheumatologist at Rheumatology Middle of Houston. You’re extra prone to have osteoarthritis than RA as you age, she says.

Nearly all of persons are recognized with RA between their 30s and 50s, in line with Konig. He says that issues in your immune system — like RF and anti-CCP antibodies — may very well present up over a decade earlier than your signs begin, indicating that RA can begin a lot sooner than it’s recognized.

Fable 2: RA is similar as osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis and RA each have an effect on your joints, however Konig says they’re completely different ailments with completely different therapy approaches.

RA is an autoimmune disease, which means your immune system sees regular proteins in your joints and different tissues as a menace and tries to destroy them, he explains.

“It’s type of like your immune system is popping by yourself physique and inflicting quite a lot of inflammation,” Bose says. “In consequence, you get joint pain and swelling, and you too can get different signs like weight reduction, fever, and fatigue.”

As a result of it’s a systemic illness — which means it impacts your complete physique — RA also can contain issues like your lungs and heart, says Bose. Lung disease is particularly widespread in individuals who have RF or anti-CCP antibodies of their blood, often known as seropositive rheumatoid arthritis, Konig says.


He notes that RA also can have an effect on your skin, eyes, and, in uncommon circumstances, blood vessels. “You actually need to deal with RA extra aggressively as a result of we’re not simply speaking about joints, we’re speaking about your entire physique,” Bose says.

Compared, osteoarthritis is restricted to your joints. It’s the wear-and-tear sort of arthritis reasonably than an autoimmune illness as a result of it doesn’t contain the immune system, Konig says. Bose explains that not like RA, osteoarthritis has no different signs past ache, swelling, stiffness, and tenderness.

Fable 3: There isn’t any therapy for RA, so that you simply need to reside with it.

Previously, Konig says, individuals who ended up within the hospital with RA have been handled with mattress relaxation, chilly compresses, massage, and leg elevation. This will have eased a few of their signs, however it didn’t cease the illness from getting worse. Over time, this led to deformed joints and exhausting pain.

Fortunately, that is not true. “Over the previous 40 years, the therapy of rheumatoid arthritis has modified dramatically,” Konig says. “We now have a plethora of extremely efficient therapies that may not solely scale back or remove ache, but additionally quench joint inflammation and forestall the event of structural bone harm, joint deformity, and incapacity.”

Not solely are there many therapy choices for RA flares, however there are a lot to assist handle the illness, explains Bose. Your rheumatologist will assist you discover the most effective therapy to your wants.

Fable 4: You shouldn’t train when you have got RA.

This one could seem plausible since you don’t need to put extra put on in your joints. However the one time it might be true is in case you’re having a flare-up, when you need to cut back your exercise. “We don’t need to stress out the joints, so we don’t advocate vigorous exercise at the moment,” Bose says. In any other case, train is a vital a part of managing RA. It might probably reduce fatigue and depression, make you stronger and extra versatile, and even assist stop incapacity.

One massive purpose exercise is essential is that when you have got RA, you have got a better danger of heart disease, notes Konig. Getting common train can decrease your danger. The American Coronary heart Affiliation recommends a minimal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio exercise each week.

Ensure you’re doing the proper of train so that you’re not too arduous in your joints, Bose says, particularly in case your hips or knees are affected. She recommends low-impact cardio workout routines like swimming, gentle strolling, or utilizing an elliptical machine or stationary bike. Your rheumatologist or bodily therapist might help you design an train plan that works for you.


Fable 5: You’re positively going to have joint harm in case you have RA.

There are such a lot of efficient remedies, particularly when RA is recognized and handled early, that joint damage can usually be prevented, Bose says. That’s why it’s so essential to take motion as early as attainable. “The objective is to get the illness into remission rapidly, since vital harm can happen early within the illness course,” says Konig.

Everybody’s RA works otherwise, says Konig, in all probability as a consequence of issues like their surroundings, their genes, and the way the illness exhibits up. Some individuals have aggressive RA, and even with therapy, they will have joint harm and deformity. However it is a minority of sufferers, Bose says.

Fable 6: It doesn’t assist RA to make way of life modifications.

Past train, different way of life modifications could make a big effect, equivalent to ditching cigarettes. “We all know that cigarette smoking is a major danger issue for the event of RA, and people who smoke are likely to have extra extreme illness,” Konig says. Quitting can enhance RA in addition to your danger for coronary heart illness.

Consuming a wholesome diet, exercising recurrently, sleeping properly, managing stress, and including mind-body leisure strategies are all key to serving to management ache, fatigue, and irritation and managing RA, says Bose.

Individuals with RA are at a better danger for sure sorts of cancer due to continual irritation. Life-style modifications also can assist decrease this danger, Bose says.

Fable 7: As soon as you’re feeling higher, you’ll be able to cease taking your medicine.

“The explanation you’re feeling higher is since you’re on the drugs, so if you cease it, your illness will come again,” Bose explains. RA is a continual situation. Some individuals go into remission, however for many, “the illness stays at a baseline, smoldering degree with good therapy,” she says.

Your rheumatologist needs to provide you as little medication as attainable. In case your illness has been in remission for a very long time, they’ll attempt to slowly scale back or cease your therapy, says Konig. This course of helps some individuals pinpoint the minimal quantity of medicine they should management their RA. Others are capable of cease therapy altogether, at the least for a time, he says.


It’s essential to notice that you need to by no means cease your medicine with out speaking to your physician first. For one factor, these medicine work by weakening your immune system from its uncommon response, explains Konig. When you cease taking them unexpectedly, there’s a excessive danger that your immune system will resolve to behave up once more.

Generally, individuals cease taking their medication as a result of they’re having unwanted effects or don’t like the way it makes them really feel, notes Bose. If so for you, it’s essential to let your rheumatologist know that you just’re having bother reasonably than altering or stopping it by yourself, she advises. In case your subsequent appointment is a while away, strive sending a message via your on-line affected person portal, or name your rheumatologist’s nurse for steerage.



KidsHealth from Nemours: “Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.”

Max Konig, MD, rheumatologist, Johns Hopkins College Faculty of Drugs, Baltimore.

Hospital for Particular Surgical procedure: “Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis Lab Exams and Outcomes.”

Nilanjana Bose, MD, rheumatologist, Rheumatology Middle of Houston.

Mayo Clinic: “Rheumatoid arthritis: Is train essential?”

American Coronary heart Affiliation: “American Coronary heart Affiliation Suggestions for Bodily Exercise in Adults and Youngsters.”

Arthritis Basis: “Rheumatoid Arthritis and Most cancers Danger.”

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