Imagine waking up every morning and feeling as tired as you did when you fell asleep. You try to get out of bed, but your stiff and aching joints leave you struggling just to stand up. When you finally do begin to go about your day, you’re beset with pain that significantly reduces your quality of life.
This isn’t some imaginary scenario; it’s a daily reality for the 300,000 Canadians who are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Fortunately, many of these patients can manage their symptoms by working with their doctors to find an effective treatment and ensuring they stay on it. But those who don’t can suffer from ailments that make it nearly impossible to function without some form of assistance.
So could rheumatoid arthritis be a risk to your autonomy? Read on to learn how this debilitating disorder can curtail your independence.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Commonly characterized by pain and stiffness in the hands, wrists, and knees, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that occurs when a patient’s immune system turns against their joints. This results in the inflammation of joint linings and damage to surrounding tissue. Warning signs often manifest on both sides of the body at once, and include soreness, stiffness, and potential swelling in affected joints. Developing a specific treatment plan with doctors and sticking to one that works is the easiest way to combat these ailments.
While the causes of rheumatoid arthritis are currently unknown, several factors can increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Women are up to three times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder, and adults are most commonly diagnosed in their sixties. Smoking, obesity, and other environmental factors can also put patients at greater risk of experiencing the disease.
How Can It Limit Your Independence?
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be distressing on their own, but they may also leave patients dependent upon loved ones for care. Those affected by the condition face a greater risk of unemployment, reducing their ability to support themselves. In addition, rheumatoid arthritis can significantly impact patients’ mobility, deforming their joints and potentially robbing them of all function. Patients may also be at greater risk of developing other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, bone thinning and osteoporosis.
In some cases, patients with rheumatoid arthritis are completely dependent on loved ones for even the most basic tasks, like getting dressed, cooking, and buckling a seatbelt. Working with a doctor to develop and maintain an effective treatment plan is the best way to maintain control of your independence.
There Is Hope
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid losing your independence to rheumatoid arthritis. The first step is to speak with a medical professional about your risk for the condition. Work with your doctor to find the treatment plan that’s best for you, and ensure you stay on it.