A positive approach to maintain good quality of life despite rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Quality of life

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects approximately 1% of the global population, with women being predominantly affected with a ratio of 4:1. The condition primarily targets multiple joints on both sides of the body, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness. The disease initiates when the immune system attacks the joints, resulting in inflammation and pain. This raises the question: Can RA impact the quality of life for individuals? 

Can RA affect the overall quality of life? 

RA is a life-altering condition that can have a profound impact on both the physical and mental aspects of an individuals life. Chronic pain and joint stiffness associated with RA can significantly limit mobility, making even simple everyday tasks challenging. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), quality of life encompasses a broad range of factors that intricately combine a persons physical health, psychological well-being, level of independence, social relationships, personal beliefs, and connection to the environment. 

The physical, emotional, and social consequences of RA can greatly diminish an individuals quality of life. The condition can cause pain, disability, and even increase the risk of premature death. 

How does it affect the quality of life? 

An individual suffering from advanced RA may find it difficult to complete simple tasks in their day-to-day activities. Several studies have demonstrated that this disease affects individuals physically, emotionally, and socially. Some of the limitations of an individual with RA are depicted below: 

  • Physical limitations and pain 

The most significant impacts of RA are inflammation, joint pain, and the progressive damage of affected joints, which can lead to physical disability. These persistent conditions can make even simple daily activities, such as walking, cooking, or driving, challenging. Mobility and functionality play a crucial role in an individuals independence and overall quality of life when dealing with RA. 

Engaging in physical activity and exercise is important to maintain muscle strength, endurance, and range of motion. Tailoring exercise routines to the individuals abilities can help manage rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and contribute to a better quality of life. 

  • Fatigue and sleep disturbance

Fatigue is a common symptom experienced by individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation in the body and the constant battle against the immune system can result in a persistent feeling of weakness, drowsiness, and exhaustion. Patients with RA often struggle to fall asleep due to agonizing pain and may experience frequent awakenings throughout the night, leading to sleep disturbances. Effectively managing time and energy is crucial in mitigating these challenges. Prioritizing activities based on their importance and planning rest periods throughout the day can be beneficial. Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable segments and seeking assistance when needed can help conserve energy and prevent overexertion. Including physical therapy as part of the routine can help reduce pain and inflammation, contributing to improved sleep quality.

  • Emotionally well-being and mental health

The impact of RA extends beyond physical symptoms and can also affect an individuals emotional and mental well-being. 

World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to her or his community. 

Individuals with RA often encounter challenges in independently choosing and managing daily activities, which can result in feelings of frustration, helplessness, and sadness. Dealing with these limitations and living with a chronic illness can contribute to anxiety and depression. 

To overcome these limitations, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a mental health professional for counseling or talk therapy. In more severe cases, medication may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms. Additionally, maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding junk food, which can trigger inflammation and potentially lead to depression, is essential. 

  • Social implications and isolation 

RA can also have significant social implications, leading to a feeling of isolation and strained relationships. The pain, fatigue, and unpredictability of symptoms may cause individuals to withdraw from social activities, decline invitations or cancel plans. This creates a sense of loneliness and makes it challenging to maintain a fulfilling social life.  

An important step in combating social implications and feelings of isolation is to establish a robust support network by actively engaging with local or online communities that understand the condition and can empathize with the challenges of rheumatoid arthritis. 

Self-care is important in struggling with loneliness like engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation such as reading, listening to music, or practicing meditation. 

  • Impact on work productivity 

The disease affects an individuals ability to work and be productive. Physical, social, and psychological limitations may affect even occupational and career progress. The key to success in the workplace lies in the effective management of the disease.  This can be achieved by ensuring the timely intake of medications and adhering to a self-care routine. It is advisable to consult doctors regarding any symptoms experienced while at work. 

Although living with RA can be challenging, it is important to remember that a better quality of life is possible. Prioritizing self-care such as managing stress, getting adequate rest, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and engaging in regular physical activities can make a significant difference. Adhering to treatment plans, including taking prescribed medications and attending medical appointments, is crucial for managing symptoms and slowing disease progression. 

Nobody can take away your pain, but do not let pain take away your happiness - Stephanie Walters