The specific cause of most types of arthritis is unknown. Some believe that it may be triggered by an infection. Most types of arthritis and the diseases we treat at Space Coast Rheumatology have genetic predisposition along with a, or most likely, multiple environmental factors.
While slowing down or stopping the progression of rheumatoid arthritis requires a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD), natural remedies may help patients feel better in spite of not being very well-supported scientifically. If taking glucosamine, turmeric, or omega-3 fatty acids works for you and is not harmful, it is okay to continue taking it. Some of these supplements may have a mild therapeutic benefit. It is important to realize that placebos help patients feel better 20% of the time, and any benefit someone may experience from a supplement may be related to the placebo effect.
Eating a healthy diet always has a positive effect on your health. While diet cannot be used alone to treat arthritis, a diet that appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect is the Mediterranean diet, which is primarily a plant- based diet (Click here to see article). It includes legumes, fish, and olive oil. Some other foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect can be found at the following link (Click here to see article). However, diet can never alone treat RA and autoimmune diseases.
Strenuous exercise can aggravate arthritis, such as long distance running or heavy weight-lifting. However, mild to moderate exercise, such as walking, swimming, dancing, as well as Pilates, yoga, and tai chi may all be appropriate and will probably not aggravate arthritis. Each individual can determine what exercise they enjoy and makes them feel better. Remember, “The less you do, the more it hurts, and the more it hurts, the less you do!”
Yes and no. Autoimmune diseases can be diagnosed with tests that measure inflammatory markers like Rheumatoid Factor, Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide, C-Reactive Protein, and Sed Rate. Mechanical problems are determined based on your signs and symptoms and physical exams as well as X-rays and MRIs. Fibromyalgia is diagnosed based on signs and symptoms. For some diseases, there are tests. For other diseases, there are no tests.
Methotrexate requires periodic lab monitoring. Space Coast Rheumatology checks to make sure that methotrexate is not harming the kidney, liver, or blood count when a patient is taking methotrexate. Plaquenil® (hydroxychloroquine) requires eye exams. Many of the medications used to modulate inflammation or control an autoimmune disease require periodic monitoring.
No. All medications have side effects. Many patients’ joint pain feels better immediately with prednisone, and they ask if they can stay on it long-term. However, prednisone causes weight gain and may even lead to diabetes. Even Aleve® (naproxen) can cause ulcers and affect the heart.