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Functional Medicine’s Approach to Rheumatoid Arthritis
Welcome to Spire Health Pathways, where our functional medicine practice is dedicated to empowering individuals living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) through comprehensive knowledge and personalized care. This webpage provides an extensive and detailed look at rheumatoid arthritis, its signs and symptoms, the impact on people’s lives, and what to expect from our practice when seeking care. Our aim is to help you make well-informed decisions about your health and the management of this condition.
Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the joints, causing inflammation, pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. In RA, the immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium, the lining of the joints, leading to inflammation and damage. Over time, this can result in joint deformity and disability. While the exact cause of RA is unknown, a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors is believed to contribute to its development.
Who is Affected?
RA can affect individuals of any age, but it is more common in women and usually develops between the ages of 30 and 60. The prevalence of RA varies across populations, with an estimated 0.5% to 1% of adults affected worldwide.
Signs and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
The primary symptoms of RA are related to joint inflammation and can include:
- Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
- Warmth and redness around the affected joints
- Decreased range of motion
- Morning stiffness lasting more than 30 minutes
- Symmetrical joint involvement (affecting the same joints on both sides of the body)
As an autoimmune disorder, RA can also cause systemic symptoms, such as:
- Low-grade fever
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Dry eyes and mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome)
Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis
Diagnosing RA can be challenging, as its symptoms can mimic those of other joint disorders. A combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests is used to make a diagnosis. Some common tests include:
Blood tests can help identify inflammation and specific antibodies associated with RA, such as rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies.
X-rays, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to assess joint damage and monitor disease progression.
Impact of Rheumatoid Arthritis on People’s Lives
Rheumatoid arthritis can significantly impact individuals’ lives, affecting their physical, emotional, and social well-being. Some of the potential consequences include:
Joint pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility can make it difficult to perform daily tasks and participate in recreational activities.
Living with RA can take an emotional toll, as individuals may experience stress, anxiety, and depression related to managing their condition and dealing with potential complications.
Work and Social Life
The physical limitations and emotional challenges of RA can affect work performance and interpersonal relationships, leading to reduced productivity, job loss, or social isolation.
Traditional Medicine Treatment Options
Various medications are used to manage RA, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologic agents. These medications aim to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and slow disease progression.
Spire Health Pathways’ Functional Medicine Approach
We begin by conducting a thorough evaluation of your medical history, lifestyle factors, and environmental influences to identify potential triggers and imbalances contributing to RA.
Personalized Treatment Plans
Based on our comprehensive assessment, we develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your unique needs and circumstances. This may include:
- Nutritional counseling and personalized meal planning to support an anti-inflammatory diet
- Targeted supplementation to address nutritional deficiencies and support immune system regulation
- Lifestyle modification recommendations, such as stress reduction techniques, sleep optimization, and personalized exercise plans
- Integrative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, or hydrotherapy, to support overall health and well-being
We work closely with your primary healthcare team and any relevant specialists to ensure a coordinated and holistic approach to your care. Regular follow-ups and monitoring help us track your progress and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
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Spire Health Pathways
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patients in care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison