Acupuncture and Arthritis

Acupuncture and Arthritis

Arthritis is a complex disorder that comprises several distinct conditions, all of them sharing one common symptom: chronic joint pain. For years, a significant aspect of modern medical science has been dedicated to finding the cure for arthritis, with varied results. Some forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis – a degenerative condition affecting the cartilage leading to inflammation of the joints – are irreversible, hence, much of the treatment has been focused more on pain reduction than on an actual cure.

However, a new study has made a connection between acupuncture and arthritis. The study said that the combination of acupuncture and arthritis can significantly reduce pain and improve function in those suffering osteoarthritis of the knee.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical procedure wherein hair-thin needles are inserted into points along “energy channels” – meridians, where the life force of the human body flows through. This is thought to help unblock the clogged energy channels and thus, help ease pain as a result of such blockage.

As part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – a form of alternative medicine based on the belief that an essential life force, qi, flows through the body along channels called meridians – acupuncture is among the oldest form of medical procedure in the world. The first form of acupuncture was started in China more than 2,000 years ago but is now widely practiced in Asia and Europe. With the recent discovery about the connection between acupuncture and arthritis, specifically on its role as a pain reliever, the procedure is increasingly becoming popular in the United States as well.

As opposed to what you may believe, getting stuck with needles for a few minutes is not as torturous as it sounds. In fact, most people who believe in the healing connection between acupuncture and arthritis, say that there is only a slight stinging sensation when the needles prick the skin, but that is all. There is no pain after that. The needles used in acupuncture are very thin, smooth, and solid, unlike hypodermic needles which are hollow with cutting edges. The length of each session may vary, depending on the kind of disorder you wish to be treated. When it comes to acupuncture and arthritis, treatment may require two sessions a week and may last for several months.

Study on Acupuncture and Arthritis

The study on acupuncture and arthritis was conducted by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Considered as one of the largest and longest clinical trials to show such conclusive effects of acupuncture and arthritis on patients, the study reported a 44 percent average reduction in pain and a 40 percent improvement in mobility.

For purposes of the study, the researchers enrolled 570 patients who are aged from 50 above, with arthritis of the knee, and who had been suffering significant pain in the same the month before the study was conducted. The patients were then randomly assigned three different treatments, and it was found that those who specifically underwent acupuncture and arthritis treatment had a 40 percent decrease in pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function.

“We have demonstrated that traditional Chinese acupuncture is an effective complement to conventional arthritis treatment and can be successfully employed as part of a multi-disciplinary approach to treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis,” says Brian Berman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Sports Nutrition International

Sports Nutrition International

Sports Nutrition International is a leading manufacturer of quality dietary supplements for athletes who put priority on strength-training and endurance. Products by Sports Nutrition International are created through reliable, peer-reviewed, published scientific research in muscle physiology vis-à-vis athletic performance and nutritional science in the field of strength & conditioning performance.

Sports Nutrition International offers a gamut of premium quality sport supplements and specializes in thermogenics, energy powder, weight loss pills, glutamine powder, creatine, weight gainers and energy pills. Ingredients are of best quality.

The following nutrients are essential to most of Sports Nutrition International’s products:

L-GLUTAMINE

This is the most abundant amino acid in the body. High concentrations are found in skeletal muscles, lung, liver, brain, and stomach tissue. Intracellular concentration of l-glutamine in the skeletal system makes up to 60 percent of total body glutamine stocks.

L-Glutamine is small in size and because of this it moves easily into muscles thus preventing muscle-breakdown and supporting muscle growth. L-Glutamine also helps the production of plasma arginine and glutamate–amino acids linked to growth.

L– glutamine should be taken on an empty stomach to improve competition for absorption.

The body's tissues need more glutamine than the amount supplied by diet and biosynthesis under certain pathological circumstances. During catabolic stress intracellular glutamine levels can drop more than 50 percent. This is when supplemental glutamine becomes necessary. In times of metabolic stress, supplemental glutamine is released into the bloodstream, where it is transported to the tissue in need.

Glutamine supplements may provide immune enhancement in endurance athletes.

GLUTAMINE PEPTIDE

Glutamine peptide is a kind of glutamine that supplies critical building blocks for larger muscle mass. Peptide-bond amino acids are easier to absorb than L-glutamine. Sports Nutrition International has added glutamine peptide to Xtreme Pro Whey™ to enhance recovery and growth.

CREATINE MONOHYDRATE

Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most popular and most effective bodybuilding supplements today. This is because of its quick-results in terms of size and strength gains. Within 2 to 3 weeks of use a person can gain 5 to 10 pounds with noticeably larger muscles.

This nutrient is naturally produced in the body and stored in muscle cells as energy. It is found in lean red meats and green leafy vegetables. However as people cannot eat voluminous amounts of these each day, supplementation is necessary to saturate the muscle cells.

Creatine renews the muscles essential energy source, ATP or adenosine triphosphate. Increased levels in muscles optimizes energy turnover meaning you’ll more energy for high power exercise and faster recovery during and after workouts. Creatine also increases the athlete’s maximum effort, delays fatigue and therefore prolongs endurance.

Products:

XTREME METHOXY RX

Xtreme Methoxy Rx is a superior anabolic formula that uses a combination of supplements to help you gain incredible amounts of lean body mass.

Xtreme Methoxy Rx contains large doses of these potent legal anabolic compounds: Methoxyflavone, Ipriflavone and Ecdysone. These compounds increase nitrogen retention through working in different pathways.

Sports Nutrition International’s customized Protein Rx™ blend, which includes a combination of Whey Isolate, Whey Peptides and micro/ultra filtered Whey Concentrate. Protein Rx™ obtains Glutamine Peptides, Taurine and Arginine to boost protein synthesis, multiply recovery times, stimulate glucose uptake and increase the release of GH.

The mixture also includes Zinc and Magnesium Aspartate plus vitamin B6, the mixture of which enhances testosterone levels, helping you obtain an anabolic effect and increase strength gains.

XTREME PRO MASS

This contains pure whey protein and glutamine peptides.

Xtreme Pro Mass provides a delicious high carbohydrate-protein ratio (2:1) to stimulate muscular growth after workout. This is an easy-mix, low-fat drink with high and low glycemic carbohydrates which provides a sustained release of energy to hard working muscle.

XTREME PRO PUMP

Xtreme Pro Pump is a creatine transport system that combines nutrients to facilitate faster absorption into muscle cells.

Xtreme Pro Pump is made of quadruple stack of Alpha Lipoic Acid, Vanadyl sulfate, Chromium peptide, and d-pinitol. This formula helps improve insulin response when blended with dextrose. This is vital for increasing muscle mass. Ipriflavone, methoxyflavone, and zinc and magnesium aspartate as additions make this formula a complete anabolic supplement.

XTREME PRO WHEY

This is made up of 100% pure whey concentrate, isolate and whey peptides. Natural digestive enzyme complex is added to improve digestibility and assimilation, thus reducing bloating commonly linked with protein ingestion.

Xtreme Pro Whey can be mixed easily with water or nonfat milk.

Cosmetic Dentistry – For That Brilliant Smile

Cosmetic Dentistry – For That Brilliant Smile

Cosmetic dentistry offers options ranging from polishing, bleaching, covering techniques, bonding, implanting and orthodontia for complete mouth over, to give you the perfect smile. Recent medical advances have reduced the pain and trauma associated with dental work. An experienced dentist can help you to get that beautiful, brilliant and dazzling smile you always aspired for.

Types of Cosmetic Dental Works

Teeth Whitening: Stained or discolored teeth can be lightened with tooth bleach technique, either at home or at dentist. Weak hydrogen peroxide gel in a plastic tray cup of your teeth size worn on teeth for 4-5 hours daily for a week effectively whitens the teeth. High intensity light along with 35% peroxide for one hour under doctor’s supervision too whitens teeth.

Veneers: Crooked, chipped, spaced teeth can be covered by wafer thin porcelain laminated veneer bonded on to the original tooth enamel. This is a very effective treatment for front teeth correction.

Implants: Dental tooth implant made of titanium is surgically placed permanently into the jawbone of missing tooth. It is designed to act as tooth root to hold on to any artificial tooth, crown, bridge or denture.

Crowns: Badly chipped, broken or decayed tooth is capped or crowned with acrylic or porcelain fused with metal. It covers the tooth so that it can stand biting pressure without further damage.

Bonding: Mild scraping of original tooth enamel can reshape front teeth. Then tooth colored composite plastic enamel of desired shape is bonded on the original tooth. This is hardened and polished with special light to give you a winning smile.

Shaping: Enamel shaping is process of reshaping teeth with filing or removing some enamel for immediate, painless teeth correction.

Orthodontic Treatment: It is best for crooked or buck teeth and can be done on children and adults alike. Invisible lingual braces are inserted behind teeth to straighten them and also to correct bite related problems.

Dentures: Whole set of teeth worn on under lying bone can correct major tooth problems.

A skilled dentist can cosmetically change your teeth for that confidant, brilliant smile while largely preserving the original teeth.

Common Symptoms for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Common Symptoms for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Unlike other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is actually an autoimmune disease. The immune system of a patient with rheumatoid arthritis turns on its own, specifically attacking the joints and other surrounding tissue. In a way, rheumatoid arthritis could be likened to allergies but with starkly different symptoms. While the common symptoms of allergies include runny nose, itchiness of the eyes, and skin rash, the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis include inflammation in the lining of the joints and pain in the affected areas.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that affects more than two million people, usually between the ages of 20 and 25. Additionally, the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis occur in all races and ethnic groups, regardless of age or sex, although it appears that the disease affects two to three times as many women as men.

Diagnosis

Since the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis differ from patient to patient, there is no single method of making accurate diagnosis. Moreover, the symptoms tend to develop overtime, making it even more difficult to identify the disease early on. To determine the existence of the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis, health care professionals apply a variety of methods from blood testing to X-rays. Aside from identifying the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis, these methods are also used to rule out other conditions that may display more or less the same symptoms.

The other factors that health care practitioners often take into account when diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis include:

* Medical history
* Physical examinations
* Laboratory tests
* X-rays

After Diagnosis, Now what?

After a patient is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, the next step is to learn as much as you can about the disease in order to understand it. First up, you need to understand that early detection of the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis s often the key to helping you live longer despite the disease. Remember that there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis and that as the person ages, the symptoms may grow worse. However, if you identify these common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis early on and undergo aggressive treatment, you increase your chance of living a long and healthy normal life.

Dealing with the Pain

One of the most common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis is joint pain. Usually this is accompanied by some degree of depression, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness. Most patients who suffer joint pain also suffer morning stiffness in and around the joints. Sometimes the pain becomes too much to bear that patients refuse to move as motion will only serve to aggravate the pain.

However, recent studies show that exercise can actually alleviate some of the common symptoms for rheumatoid arthritis. Constant motion balanced with a good diet and plenty of rest will ease the pain that comes with this debilitating disease and help you live a better life.

Be advised that you should consult with your doctor first before attempting any strenuous exercise routines, as there are some types of exercises that arthritic patients should not do.

Tips For Reducing Your Risk

Tips For Reducing Your Risk

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number-one killer of Americans in the U.S.

Most Americans are unaware that taking precautionary measures such as consuming a healthy diet, managing stress levels and getting adequate physical activity can go a long way in reducing the risks of heart-related diseases.

Here are five simple steps that you can take to maintain a healthy heart:

• Eat a Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables: The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) new Dietary Guidelines say adults should consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables each day to lower their risk of heart disease.

• Exercise: Physical activity helps improve heart function, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and boost energy. The American Heart Association reports that 38.6 percent of United States adults say they do not engage in leisure-time physical activity. Adults should have at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week.

• Add Fiber to Your Diet: Fiber offers many heart-health benefits, including lowering the risk of coronary heart disease and blood cholesterol. Try to get the recommended amount of fiber (25 to 30 grams) in your daily diet.

• Consume Omega-3s: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA and DHA) help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system by maintaining cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are seafood, such as salmon, tuna, crab and shrimp.

• Supplement Your Diet: A good supplement can function as your nutritional seat belt. Health professionals, including doctors, nutritionists and even the Food and Drug Association (FDA), agree that many diets in the U.S. lack optimum levels of many key nutrients such as antioxidants, omega-3s and plant sterols required to maintain a healthy heart and that adding a daily multivitamin or dietary supplement can help fill the nutritional gaps.

Herbalife, a leading provider of nutritional supplements, has developed, with the guidance of Nobel Laureate in Medicine Dr. Louis Ignarro, a line of heart- health supplements with ingredients for key areas of cardiovascular health for adults, including maintaining healthy cholesterol, triglyceride and homocysteine levels already within the normal ranges and healthy circulation.

To Extract Or Not: The Wisdom Tooth Question

To Extract Or Not: The Wisdom Tooth Question

A wisdom tooth, in humans, is any of the usual four third molars. Wisdom teeth usually appear between the ages seventeen and twenty five in age. Most adults have four wisdom teeth, but it is possible to some to have also fewer wisdom teeth or more in which this case is called supernumerary teeth. Most of the wisdom teeth may affect other teeth as they develop and become impacted or coming in sideways. They are often extracted when this situation occur. There is less reports of people do not have the wisdom teeth or have not developed. Sometimes wisdom teeth fail to erupt completely through the gum bed and the gum at the back of the wisdom tooth extends over the biting surface, forming a soft tissue flap or lid around the tooth called an operculum. Teeth that are covered by an operculum can be difficult to clean with a toothbrush. Additional cleaning techniques can include using a needle less plastic syringe to vigorously wash the tooth with moderate pressured water or to softly wash it with hydrogen peroxide.
There are two reasons when wisdom may be extracted. First reason is either the wisdom teeth have already become infected, or the wisdom teeth could potentially become problematic if not extracted. Potential problems cause by the presence of properly grown in wisdom teeth include infections caused by food particles easily trapped in the jaw area behind the wisdom teeth regular brushing and flossing is difficult and ineffective. The second reason why wisdom teeth need to extracted is because, of the misalignment which rubs up against the tongue or check causing pain, potential crowding or malocclusion of the remaining teeth as well as orthodontics.
The wisdom in removing the wisdom teeth before they cause the trouble has long been debated. In only a small percentage of people do they grow in straight and healthy? The human jaw has been steadily decreasing in size for millenniums and few are having a jaw that is large enough to accommodate for more teeth in the back of the moth. As a result many teeth grow in sideways, emerge only part way from the gum or remain impacted, and forever trapped beneath in.
The debate in whether to extract the wisdom tooth or not before such problems may occur or wait until they do. Some of the dentist that don t bother the wisdom until they bother you.. Some also believed that it is better to get the malpositioned wisdom teeth while you are young and healthy rather that they may cause trouble eventually. Those who suggest that as patient age it more difficult to have a surgery rather than you are younger. The complication is more numerous and longer time to heal.
The risk of the complications that is associated with malpositioned wisdom teeth is not in question. The argument is how likely the complication may occur, such as the possible infection of the surrounding gum tissues, or having the fluid cyst formation. Lastly the decay or dental carries this makes the wisdom teeth hard to clean and repair.
To conclude, healthy and normally positioned wisdom teeth can be very valuable additions to a person’s mouth and should not be removed.

Tennis Elbow Treatment

Tennis Elbow Treatment

How do you cure tennis elbow? First you have to know what causes it and how it happens. Tennis elbow involves injury to the extensor muscles of your forearm and its tendon origin. You have to be aware of the tissues that you have injured to eliminate the symptoms. The elbow is a hinge joint allowing both flexion and extension. The bone structure and its ligaments make its function stable. Tennis involves repeated gripping and twisting movements which work your extensor muscles. If repetitive micro-trauma is placed on the tissues, these tissues are unable to cope up which results to muscle tear on this area.

Tennis elbow treatment for tennis elbow injury varies, depending on the severity of the injury. Some treatment may include stopping or limiting activities that causes the pain, in these cases a band is wrapped around the forearm near the elbow or a wrist sprint is recommended and are used to protect the injured muscles as they heal.

Other primary tennis elbow treatment includes; anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), injections, and by the treatment called R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). But these tennis elbow treatments however can just treat the symptoms but not the main cause of the injury. In severe cases, an injection of medication into the injured area can relieve the pain. Surgeons recommend exercises such as stretching and strengthening the muscles to help stop the condition from returning. Some go through therapy and as the condition improves they gradually return to normal activities. This condition however is recurring in most cases. If the non- surgical forms of tennis elbow treatment do not work, then surgery may be recommended.

Here are categories of tennis elbow treatment: reducing pain, which includes the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; reducing inflammation, by putting packs of ice on the injured area combined with compression and elevation; inducing the healing process; maintaining fitness, by rehabilitation of the injured area through exercise; and control force placed on injured tissues, such as tennis elbow braces and wrist sprint.

A new form of possible tennis elbow treatment has arise, one is called Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy, wherein sound waves are used to induce so called ‘micro-trauma’ to tissues that initiates a healing response and helps to decrease inflammation. Another is Autologous Blood Injection, were in the Journal of Hand Surgery reported the results of a small group of patients who underwent injection of their own blood into the location of lateral epicondylitis with the underlying idea that the blood injection supplies the necessary healing components to help cure the problem.

Arbonne Weight Loss

Arbonne Weight Loss

Arbonne weight loss products are made in Switzerland by the globally renowned Arbonne group. All of their weight loss products are based on natural vegetable extracts and the company positively embraces the rule that good health and maintained weight loss is best achieved by finding a balance in what we eat.

The Figure 8 – a weight loss program designed to help you lose weight in eight weeks – is the Arbonne weight loss flagship product and challenge. The program consists of a variety of supplements and Arbonne recommends starting the challenge with their “Daily Detox Tea.” The tea is said to foster overall good health and helps restore the balance in nutrients that Arbonne promotes. It does this by way of flushing out the kidneys, liver and the blood and helps prepare the body for the weight loss that is to come when following the Figure 8 weight loss program.

The “Going, Going, Gone!” dietary supplement that is said to help anyone using it to boost their energy, subdue their appetite and increase metabolism.

The “On the Go! Weight Loss Chews” that are also part of The Figure 8 Arbonne weight loss program is a bag of treats for those who struggle with the proverbial sweet tooth. They are delicious snacks that are suppose to help control and limit appetite as well as giving an energy boost between meals. So no longer do you have to suffer hunger pangs between meals and run the risk of ruining all your hard work by snacking on a traditional chocolate bar, no these Weight Loss Chews are designed to take the edge off that and leave you satisfied.

The Arbonne weight loss program also consists of the “Go Easy! Protein Shake” which is said to help you take in twenty essential vitamins and minerals as well as much needed protein. When you consider that protein is a great appetite suppressant then the claim that this shake can help control hunger might well be valid.

On the same note, there is also a fiber supplement that Arbonne produces as part of their weight loss challenge. The “Go Anywhere! Fiber Booster” is a mix of dissoluble fibers that are derived from fruits and grains. Fiber is important when trying to lose weight because it adds the necessary bulk to a diet that keeps the digestive system working healthily.

The truth is there are a glut of companies out there claiming to have the secret to weight loss – you simply have to ‘buy into' their particular brand of product or program to make your weight problem disappear. The Arbonne weight loss program seems to be one of the less sensational!

Easy Ways To Sensitive Teeth Care

Easy Ways To Sensitive Teeth Care

Just when you are about to enjoy your cone of ice cream or a mug of hot choco, you feel a sudden sharp sting of pain in your teeth. How often you encounter this? Are you experiencing it frequently?
No matter how often it happens, the pain is telling you that there is something wrong with your teeth and you need to make that appointment with your dentist the sooner the possible so that he or she can examine the cause of the pain; may it be a cavity or cracked tooth. But for most of the cases, the problem is often caused by tooth sensitivity. This is a common oral condition brought about by variety of factors. The levels of pain that the sensitivity of teeth can cause a person would be from occasional stings and up to frequently recurring pain.
Tooth sensitivity is a dental discomfort that can be triggered by more other factors aside from common temperature triggers like hot, cold, sour or sweet foods. Some individuals claim to have sensational tooth pain even by breathing cold air. The pain, though it may vary, can be so sudden but can shoot deep right into the nerve endings of the teeth.
There are tendencies that as people age, gums recede or move away from the tooth enamel exposing a great deal of root surfaces of the teeth. This is the leading factor for having tooth sensitivity.
Some other possible causes may include brushing too hard and where the tooth enamel wears out. Gingivitis and other periodontal diseases can also be the culprit for having tooth sensitivity. The teeth can also be irritated due to application of tooth whitening products. Habitual grinding or clenching, acidic food intake, and the use of highly-acidic oral products, can also be the reason why there is sensitivity of the teeth. Presence of plaque on the tooth’s root surface can also be link to this discomfort.
The best way to treat tooth sensitivity is to ask first for a professional advice, like your dentist, regarding the proper method of treating this oral inconvenience. Your dentist will first examine the state of your oral health to figure out which method is proper to treat your dental problem. He or she can assess whether you just need a regular application of fluoride gel or advise you to use desensitizing paste to lessen the sensitivity of your teeth. Sometimes, your dentist can apply dental sealants to strengthen your tooth enamel which in effect, reduces its sensitivity to extreme food temperature. This can further help in blocking pain transmission to the nerve up to the brain.
If ever the cause to your tooth’s sensitivity is gingivitis or improper brushing method, the dentist can give you a review onto the proper application of oral hygiene techniques. Grinding and clenching can be reduced by wearing protective mouth guard while you’re sleeping. Your diet, of course, should also be checked and be properly planned as to prevent ingestion of acidic foods that can cause further tooth sensitivity.
The best step left would be to regularly visit your dentist. They can actually provide tooth cleaning and other oral hygiene techniques to effectively reduce tooth sensitivity while protecting it from further occurrence. For cases of hypersensitivity, your dentist may recommend you to undergo endodontic procedure where the infected pulp within your damage tooth is being cleaned and sealed off. Your periodontist will then replace a dental crown over the tooth to make it stronger and still functional.

Overview of What Arthritis Is

Overview of What Arthritis Is

Unlike osteoarthritis, which results from wear and tear on your joints, rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition. The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it's believed to be the body's immune system attacking the tissue that lines your joints (synovium).

Rheumatoid arthritis is two to three times more common in women than in men and generally strikes between the ages of 20 and 50. But rheumatoid arthritis can also affect young children and adults older than age 50.

There's no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. But with proper treatment, a strategy for joint protection and changes in lifestyle, you can live a long, productive life with this condition.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may come and go over time. They include:

* Pain and swelling in your joints, especially in the smaller joints of your hands and feet

* Generalized aching or stiffness of the joints and muscles, especially after sleep or after periods of rest

* Loss of motion of the affected joints

* Loss of strength in muscles attached to the affected joints

* Fatigue, which can be severe during a flare-up

* Low-grade fever

* Deformity of your joints over time

* General sense of not feeling well (malaise)

Rheumatoid arthritis usually causes problems in several joints at the same time. Early in rheumatoid arthritis, the joints in your wrists, hands, feet and knees are the ones most often affected. As the disease progresses, your shoulders, elbows, hips, jaw and neck can become involved. It generally affects both sides of your body at the same time. The knuckles of both hands are one example.

Small lumps, called rheumatoid nodules, may form under your skin at pressure points and can occur at your elbows, hands, feet and Achilles tendons. Rheumatoid nodules may also occur elsewhere, including the back of your scalp, over your knee or even in your lungs. These nodules can range in size — from as small as a pea to as large as a walnut. Usually these lumps aren't painful.

In contrast to osteoarthritis, which affects only your bones and joints, rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation of tear glands, salivary glands, the linings of your heart and lungs, your lungs themselves and, in rare cases, your blood vessels.

Although rheumatoid arthritis is often a chronic disease, it tends to vary in severity and may even come and go. Periods of increased disease activity — called flare-ups or flares — alternate with periods of relative remission, during which the swelling, pain, difficulty sleeping, and weakness fade or disappear.

Swelling or deformity may limit the flexibility of your joints. But even if you have a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, you'll probably retain flexibility in many joints.
Illustration comparing rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, involves the wearing away of the cartilage that caps the bones in your joints. With rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial membrane that protects and lubricates joints becomes inflamed, causing pain and swelling. Joint erosion may follow.
More On This Topic

* Osteoarthritis

Causes

As with other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis involves inflammation of the joints. A membrane called the synovium lines each of your movable joints. When you have rheumatoid arthritis, white blood cells — whose usual job is to attack unwanted invaders, such as bacteria and viruses — move from your bloodstream into your synovium. Here, these blood cells appear to play an important role in causing the synovial membrane to become inflamed (synovitis).

This inflammation results in the release of proteins that, over months or years, cause thickening of the synovium. These proteins can also damage cartilage, bone, tendons and ligaments. Gradually, the joint loses its shape and alignment. Eventually, it may be destroyed.

Some researchers suspect that rheumatoid arthritis is triggered by an infection — possibly a virus or bacterium — in people with an inherited susceptibility. Although the disease itself is not inherited, certain genes that create an increased susceptibility are. People who have inherited these genes won't necessarily develop rheumatoid arthritis. But they may have more of a tendency to do so than others. The severity of their disease may also depend on the genes inherited. Some researchers also believe that hormones may be involved in the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
Illustration showing inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis typically strikes joints, causing pain, swelling and deformity. As your synovial membranes become inflamed and thickened, fluid builds up and joints erode and degrade.
Risk factors

The exact causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unclear, but these factors may increase your risk:

* Getting older, because incidence of rheumatoid arthritis increases with age. However, incidence begins to decline in women over the age of 80.

* Being female.

* Being exposed to an infection, possibly a virus or bacterium, that may trigger rheumatoid arthritis in those with an inherited susceptibility.

* Inheriting specific genes that may make you more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis.

* Smoking cigarettes over a long period of time.

When to seek medical advice

See your doctor if you have persistent discomfort and swelling in multiple joints on both sides of your body. Your doctor can work with you to develop a pain management and treatment plan. Also seek medical advice if you experience side effects from your arthritis medications. Side effects may include nausea, abdominal discomfort, black or tarry stools, changes in bowel habits, constipation and drowsiness.
Screening and diagnosis

If you have signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor will likely conduct a physical examination and request laboratory tests to determine if you have this form of arthritis. These tests may include:

* Blood tests. A blood test that measures your erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) can indicate the presence of an inflammatory process in your body. People with rheumatoid arthritis tend to have elevated ESRs. The ESRs in those with osteoarthritis tend to be normal.

Another blood test looks for an antibody called rheumatoid factor. Most people with rheumatoid arthritis eventually have this abnormal antibody, although it may be absent early in the disease. It's also possible to have the rheumatoid factor in your blood and not have rheumatoid arthritis.

* Imaging. Doctors may take X-rays of your joints to differentiate between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A sequence of X-rays obtained over time can show the progression of arthritis.

Complications

Rheumatoid arthritis causes stiffness and pain and may also cause fatigue. It can lead to difficulty with everyday tasks, such as turning a doorknob or holding a pen. Dealing with the pain and the unpredictability of rheumatoid arthritis can also cause symptoms of depression.

Rheumatoid arthritis may also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, especially if you take corticosteroids. Some researchers believe that rheumatoid arthritis can increase your risk of heart disease. This may be because the inflammation that rheumatoid arthritis causes can also affect your arteries and heart muscle tissue.

In the past, people with rheumatoid arthritis may have ended up confined to a wheelchair because damage to joints made it difficult or impossible to walk. That's not as likely today because of better treatments and self-care methods.
More On This Topic

* Osteoporosis

Treatment

Treatments for arthritis have improved in recent years. Most treatments involve medications. But in some cases, surgical procedures may be necessary.

Medications

Medications for rheumatoid arthritis can relieve its symptoms and slow or halt its progression. They include:

* Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This group of medications, which includes aspirin, helps relieve both pain and inflammation if you take the drugs regularly. NSAIDs that are available over-the-counter include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). These are available at higher dosages, and other NSAIDs are available by prescription — such as ketoprofen, naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn), tolmetin (Tolectin), diclofenac (Voltaren), nabumetone (Relafen) and indomethacin (Indocin). Taking NSAIDs can lead to side effects such as indigestion and stomach bleeding. Other potential side effects may include damage to the liver and kidneys, ringing in your ears (tinnitus), fluid retention and high blood pressure. NSAIDs, except aspirin, may also increase your risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke.

* COX-2 inhibitors. This class of NSAIDs may be less damaging to your stomach. Like other NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitors — such as celecoxib (Celebrex) — suppress an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX) that's active in joint inflammation. Other types of NSAIDs work against two versions of the COX enzyme that are present in your body: COX-1 and COX-2. However, there's evidence that by suppressing COX-1, NSAIDs may cause stomach and other problems because COX-1 is the enzyme that protects your stomach lining. Unlike other NSAIDs, COX-2 inhibitors suppress only COX-2, the enzyme involved in inflammation. Side effects may include fluid retention and causing or exacerbating high blood pressure. Furthermore, this class of drugs has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

* Corticosteroids. These medications, such as prednisone and methylprednisolone (Medrol), reduce inflammation and pain, and slow joint damage. In the short term, corticosteroids can make you feel dramatically better. But when used for many months or years, they may become less effective and cause serious side effects. Side effects may include easy bruising, thinning of bones, cataracts, weight gain, a round face and diabetes. Doctors often prescribe a corticosteroid to relieve acute symptoms, with the goal of gradually tapering off the medication.

* Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Physicians prescribe DMARDs to limit the amount of joint damage that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis. Taking these drugs at early stages in the development of rheumatoid arthritis is especially important in the effort to slow the disease and save the joints and other tissues from permanent damage. Because many of these drugs act slowly — it may take weeks to months before you notice any benefit — DMARDs typically are used with an NSAID or a corticosteroid. While the NSAID or corticosteroid handles your immediate symptoms and limits inflammation, the DMARD goes to work on the disease itself. Some commonly used DMARDs include hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), the gold compound auranofin (Ridaura), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin) and methotrexate (Rheumatrex). Other forms of DMARDs include immunosuppressants and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers.

* Immunosuppressants. These medications act to tame your immune system, which is out of control in rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, some of these drugs attack and eliminate cells that are associated with the disease. Some of the commonly used immunosuppressants include leflunomide (Arava), azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan). These medications can have potentially serious side effects such as increased susceptibility to infection.

* TNF blockers. These are a class of DMARDs known as biologic response modifiers. TNF is a cytokine, or cell protein, that acts as an inflammatory agent in rheumatoid arthritis. TNF blockers, or anti-TNF medications, target or block this cytokine and can help reduce pain, morning stiffness and tender or swollen joints — usually within one or two weeks after treatment begins. There is evidence that TNF blockers may halt progression of disease. These medications often are taken with methotrexate. TNF blockers approved for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira). Potential side effects include injection site irritation (adalimumab and etanercept), worsening congestive heart failure (infliximab), blood disorders, lymphoma, demyelinating diseases, and increased risk of infection. If you have an active infection, don't take these medications.

* Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra). IL-1Ra is another type of biologic response modifier and is a recombinant form of the naturally occurring interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra). Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a cell protein that promotes inflammation and occurs in excess amounts in people who have rheumatoid arthritis or other types of inflammatory arthritis. If IL-1 is prevented from binding to its receptor, the inflammatory response decreases. The first IL-1Ra that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in people with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis who haven't responded adequately to conventional DMARD therapy is anakinra (Kineret). It may be used alone or in combination with methotrexate. Anakinra is given as a daily self-administered injection under the skin. Some potential side effects include injection site reactions, decreased white blood cell counts, headache and an increase in upper respiratory infections. There may be a slightly higher rate of respiratory infections in people who have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If you have an active infection, don't use anakinra.

* Abatacept (Orencia). Abatacept, a type of costimulation modulator approved in late 2005, reduces the inflammation and joint damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis by inactivating T cells — a type of white blood cell. People who haven't been helped by TNF blockers might consider abatacept, which is administered monthly through a vein in your arm (intravenously). Side effects may include headache, nausea and mild infections, such as upper respiratory tract infections. Serious infections, such as pneumonia, can occur.

* Rituximab (Rituxan). Rituximab reduces the number of B cells in your body. B cells are involved in inflammation. Though originally approved for use in people with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, rituximab was approved for rheumatoid arthritis in early 2006. People who haven't found relief using TNF blockers might consider using rituximab, which is usually given along with methotrexate. Rituximab is administered as an infusion into a vein in your arm. Side effects include flu-like signs and symptoms, such as fever, chills and nausea. Some people experience extreme reactions to the infusion, such as difficulty breathing and heart problems.

* Antidepressant drugs. Some people with arthritis also experience symptoms of depression. The most common antidepressants used for arthritis pain and nonrestorative sleep are amitriptyline, nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor) and trazodone (Desyrel).

Surgical or other procedures

Although a combination of medication and self-care is the first course of action for rheumatoid arthritis, other methods are available for severe cases:

* Prosorba column. This blood-filtering technique removes certain antibodies that contribute to pain and inflammation in your joints and muscles and is usually performed once a week for 12 weeks as an outpatient procedure. Some of the side effects include fatigue and a brief increase in joint pain and swelling for the first few days after the treatment. The Prosorba column treatment isn't recommended if you're taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or if you have heart problems, high blood pressure or blood-clotting problems.

* Joint replacement surgery. For many people with rheumatoid arthritis, medicines and therapies can't prevent joint destruction. When joints are severely damaged, joint replacement surgery can often help restore joint function, reduce pain or correct a deformity. You may need to have an entire joint replaced with a metal or plastic prosthesis. Surgery may also involve tightening tendons that are too loose, loosening tendons that are too tight, fusing bones to reduce pain or removing part of a diseased bone to improve mobility. Your doctor may also remove the inflamed joint lining (synovectomy).

More On This Topic

* Steroid use: Balancing the risks and benefits
* Are COX-2 drugs safe for you? An interview with a Mayo Clinic specialist
* Knee replacement: Surgery can relieve pain

Self-care

Treating rheumatoid arthritis typically involves using a combination of medical treatments and self-care strategies. The following self-care procedures are important elements for managing the disease:

* Exercise regularly. Different types of exercise achieve different goals. Check with your doctor or physical therapist first and then begin a regular exercise program for your specific needs. If you can walk, walking is a good starter exercise. If you can't walk, try a stationary bicycle with little or no resistance or do hand or arm exercises. A chair exercise program may be helpful. Aquatic exercise is another option, and many health clubs with pools offer such classes.

It's good to move each joint in its full range of motion every day. As you move, maintain a slow, steady rhythm. Don't jerk or bounce. Also, remember to breathe. Holding your breath can temporarily deprive your muscles of oxygen and tire them. It's also important to maintain good posture while you exercise. Avoid exercising tender, injured or severely inflamed joints. If you feel new joint pain, stop. New pain that lasts more than two hours after you exercise probably means you've overdone it. If pain persists for more than a few days, call your doctor.

* Control your weight. Excess weight puts added stress on joints in your back, hips, knees and feet — the places where arthritis pain is commonly felt. Excess weight can also make joint surgery more difficult and risky.

* Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet emphasizing fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help you control your weight and maintain your overall health, allowing you to deal better with your arthritis. However, there's no special diet that can be used to treat arthritis. It hasn't been proved that eating any particular food will make your joint pain or inflammation better or worse.

* Apply heat. Heat will help ease your pain, relax tense, painful muscles and increase the regional flow of blood. One of the easiest and most effective ways to apply heat is to take a hot shower or bath for 15 minutes. Other options include using a hot pack, an electric heat pad set on its lowest setting or a radiant heat lamp with a 250-watt reflector heat bulb to warm specific muscles and joints. If your skin has poor sensation or if you have poor circulation, don't use heat treatment.

* Apply cold for occasional flare-ups. Cold may dull the sensation of pain. Cold also has a numbing effect and decreases muscle spasms. Don't use cold treatments if you have poor circulation or numbness. Techniques may include using cold packs, soaking the affected joints in cold water and ice massage.

* Practice relaxation techniques. Hypnosis, guided imagery, deep breathing and muscle relaxation can all be used to control pain.

* Take your medications as recommended. By taking medications regularly instead of waiting for pain to build, you will lessen the overall intensity of your discomfort.

Coping skills

The degree to which rheumatoid arthritis affects your daily activities depends in part on how well you cope with the disease. Physical and occupational therapists can help you devise strategies to cope with specific limitations you may experience as the result of weakness or pain. Here are some general suggestions to help you cope:

* Keep a positive attitude. With your doctor, make a plan for managing your arthritis. This will help you feel in charge of your disease. Studies show that people who take control of their treatment and actively manage their arthritis experience less pain and make fewer visits to the doctor.

* Use assistive devices. A painful knee may need a brace for support. You might also want to use a cane to take some of the stress off the joint as you walk. Use the cane in the hand opposite the affected joint. If your hands are affected, various helpful tools and gadgets are available to help you maintain an active lifestyle. Contact your pharmacy or doctor for information on ordering items that may help you the most.

* Know your limits. Rest when you're tired. Arthritis can make you prone to fatigue and muscle weakness. A rest or short nap that doesn't interfere with nighttime sleep may help.

* Avoid grasping actions that strain your finger joints. Instead of using a clutch purse, for example, select one with a shoulder strap. Use hot water to loosen a jar lid and pressure from your palm to open it, or use a jar opener. Don't twist or use your joints forcefully.

* Spread the weight of an object over several joints. For instance, use both hands to lift a heavy pan.

* Take a break. Periodically relax and stretch.

* Maintain good posture. Poor posture causes uneven weight distribution and may strain ligaments and muscles. The easiest way to improve your posture is by walking. Some people find that swimming also helps improve their posture.

* Use your strongest muscles and favor large joints. Don't push open a heavy glass door. Lean into it. To pick up an object, bend your knees and squat while keeping your back straight.