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Prevent Joint Damage From Rheumatoid Arthritis

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When rheumatoid arthritis flares up, it makes your joints feel stiff and achy. You want to prevent joint damage as much as possible.

If you have swelling and stiffness every day, you’re more likely to have damage than someone who has these symptoms less often.

Likewise, if you have a lot of swelling or lots of swollen joints, you’re more likely to have damage than a person with just a little bit.

The damage can also happen without causing much pain. Joint swelling is a reliable sign, though. So is tenderness when you press on a joint.

Also, take note of how long your joints feel stiff in the morning. Ask yourself when you get up, "How long does it take until I'm feeling as loose as I'll feel for the day?" The longer you feel stiff, the more likely it is that your rheumatoid arthritis is active.

Another sign you can look for is a "boggy" joint. When the joint lining starts to have problems, it may give a joint a mushy texture. This boggy texture may remain even when you don’t have a flare. See your rheumatologist if you notice this happening.

5 Habits That Help

Because treatment for rheumatoid arthritis has improved, many experts believe that most people who now have it will get less joint damage than ever before. Take these steps to improve your odds of that.

1. Get treated early. Much of the damage that eventually becomes serious starts soon after RA is discovered. The earlier you start treatment, the less the chance of damage.

2. See your doctor often. People who see their rheumatologist regularly (several times a year) have less damage than people who do not.

3. Exercise! It makes your joints stronger. Your doctor or physical therapist will help you make a plan that is safe, effective, and fits your fitness level.

4. Rest when you need to. You need to balance between rest and exercise so that you don't overdo it.

5. Use a cane in the hand opposite a painful hip or knee. This reduces wear-and-tear on the affected joint.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 15, 2015
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