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Health Tips, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Unraveling Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Costs and How Functional Medicine Offers Hope of Recovery

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system is assumed to mistakenly attack the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and potential joint damage1. It often affects the small joints in the hands and feet. Unlike the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis, RA affects the lining of your joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity2. This has long been assumed to be an incurable disease process, when in fact, using functional medicine principles of unraveling what is causing the immune system to become imbalanced AND what is causing the chronic inflammation that becomes RA, we can address this quickly and effectively.

The main symptoms of RA include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and fatigue1. These symptoms may include tenderness and pain, especially in the morning or after sitting for long periods3. More than one joint is affected, and the same joints on both sides of the body are typically affected first3. Many people with RA also experience extreme tiredness and some may have a low-grade fever3. These symptoms are caused by an immune response in the body to very specific drivers that are largely different for each person. For this reason, administering medication to mask the symptoms will not bring lasting relief or recovery. When the individual causes for inflammation are found for the individual and addressed, the inflammation can recede, the pain level decreases and goes away and the joints can return to their normal state unless long-term damage has happened.

Diagnosis of RA involves a physical exam in combination with several tests4. These tests include blood tests for Rheumatoid factor above 20 IU/ml and positive anti-CCP antibodies, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) above 20 to determine the presence of inflammatory mediators, X-ray to identify the extent of damage to the joints, and Arthrocentesis, a procedure during which a sterile needle is used to withdraw joint fluid to determine the cause of symptoms4. If one wishes to address this disease process well and with minimal damage to the joints and bone, it is imperative to begin immediately thinking outside of the medical community. Integrative and functional medicine practitioners are trained to help not just manage the pain and inflammation but also help individuals address what is causing this for themselves. It is one of the most simple autoimmune diseases to address well and experience remission long term.

The treatment for RA can be expensive, especially with certain types of medications that are costly to produce. People with RA face an average of $12,500 in medical expenses per year5. For those who take biologic medications to slow the progression of the disease, the cost can exceed $36,0005. Most patients can expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 annually for conventional DMARD medications6. This expense climbs as the disease worsens. However, if one chooses to invest in integrative or functional medicine, one can expect an initial outlay of between $7,000 to $10,000 for in-depth testing that uncovers what is causing their RA symptoms in the first place, and targeted supplementation, food, and lifestyle shifts that effectively address their condition. The difference is, there may be a small continuing cost for supplementation, but when the causes of the disease are addressed and symptoms have fully resolved, there is not the expected outlay of mounting costs year after year, and the individual returns to living without the symptoms of RA.

A note: if one is thinking of choosing a holistic approach to RA, please know that if one has chosen to use biologic medications, it may change how quickly the body can recover, because the immune system has been hijacked and is unable to function normally to aid in the recovery process.

Integrative and functional medicine focuses on unraveling what is causing the disease in an individual’s body and addressing those causes using food, lifestyle shifts, and targeted supplementation to help the individual create an environment of healing for one’s own body. In-depth testing may be used, in addition to Rheumatoid factor and anti-CCP antibodies, Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), functional practitioners look at food sensitivities, whole body toxicity, the gut biome, and possibly connective tissue testing. These tests help the practitioner see exactly what is triggering the immune reaction of chronic inflammation and help the practitioner and the client address those causes effectively. By looking at RA in this manner, we can reasonably expect sustainable recovery.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a painful disease that can quickly limit movement and impact quality of life. However, if one chooses to address WHY it is happening in the body, the body has the capacity to recover.


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Source(s):

  1. https://microsoftstart.msn.com/en-us/health/ask-professionals/in-expert-answers-on-rheumatoidarthritis/in-rheumatoidarthritis?questionid=xcpmvp65&type=condition&source=bingmainline_conditionqna
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4924-rheumatoid-arthritis
  4. https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/condition/Rheumatoid-arthritis/hp-Rheumatoid-arthritis?source=conditioncdx
  5. https://www.verywellhealth.com/cost-of-rheumatoid-arthritis-5409492
  6. https://www.rheumatoidarthritis.org/treatment/costs/