HEALTH CONDITIONS


Listed below you will find information about a range of specific health conditions and issues, including communicable diseases and National Health Priorities such as:


Arthritis

There are many different types of arthritis conditions. The Arthritis Australia website is http://www.arthritisaustralia.com.au.

One of the most debilitating forms is Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an immune system disorder which causes swelling, pain and stiffness in joints. It can lead to joint deformity and may also affect other body organs. Treatment includes medicines, joint care and lifestyle changes and if started early, it can prevent or limit joint damage.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the tissue that lines the joints is attacked by the body's own immune system. Tear glands, salivary glands, blood vessels and lung and heart tissue can also be affected. The trigger for RA is unknown.

 
Signs and symptoms

RA commonly starts in hands, knees and feet and usually affects both sides of the body at the same time.

Symptoms vary from person to person and include:

  • Warm, swollen, painful joints
  • Joint stiffness, more noticeable in the morning
  • Loss of joint motion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent tiredness and feeling ‘run down'
  • Rheumatoid nodules - small painless lumps under the skin

Symptoms may very from mild to severe, may move from joint to joint and may flare-up and subside. Over time damaged joints may lose their shape and alignment.

Blood tests

Blood tests can help to diagnose RA and monitor treatment.

  • ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) - a raised ESR is a sign of tissue inflammation
  • Rheumatoid factor -  is an abnormal antibody in the blood of most people with RA.

 

Management

Management problems for RA aim to prevent joint damage and maintain quality of life. The main way is through diet and exercise. Some others are the use of medicines to stop disease activity and ways to reduce pain, maintain joint function and manage the tasks of daily living. Doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dieticians can help.


Medicines
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)

(e.g. aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen, meloxicam, naproxen) reduce joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Some can be purchased without a doctor's prescription. They must be used with care to avoid serious gatro-intesinal, heart and kidney problems.

  • Pain Relievers

Paracetamol may relieve pain without causing serious adverse effects. It usually needs to be taken regularly three or four times a day. Sometimes stronger morphine-like pain relievers are needed.

  • Fish Oils

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils have anti-inflammatory effects and can reduce joint pain and stiffness and reduce the need for NSAIDs. The required dose may be taken as capsules or liquid. Ask a doctor or pharmacist for advice.

  • DMARDS (disease modifying and immune-modulating Anti-Rheumatic Drugs)

DMARDS slow down or stop disease activity and early treatment can prevent or limit damage to the joints and other organs. They may take weeks to months to act and must be closely monitored to avoid serious adverse effects.

  • Biological DMARDS

These block the actions of body proteins involved with inflammation. They must be given by injection and may improve symptoms within a few days. They must be closely monitored to avoid serious adverse effects.

  • Corticosteroids

The reduce inflammation and immune system activity and can quickly and dramatically improve symptoms. They can be taken orally or injected into joints. Steroids can cause serious adverse effects and are usually only used for short periods to control severe inflammation.


Pain relief
  • Maintain good posture to limit stress on joints and muscles
  • Warm towels, hot packs, or a warm bath or shower can relieve pain and stiffness
  • Cold packs can reduce pain and swelling
  • Take medicines regularly, according to directions

Rest and Joint care

Learn to recognise when your body and joints need to rest and learn ways to protect joints during daily activities. Walking sticks and splints can help protect joints. Ask an occupational therapist about splints and mechanical aids to help with daily tasks.


Exercise

Exercise regularly to improve mood, decrease pain, increase flexibility and also to strengthen muscles, bones and ligaments. Warm water exercise is especially helpful as the warmth and buoyancy of the water makes movement easier. Ask a physiotherapist for appropriate exercises.


Healthy lifestyle
  • Eat regular, healthy meals, including plenty of fruit, vegetables and grains. Limits foods high in fat, sugar or salt. Ask a dietician about foods containing omega-3 fatty acids that may help reduce inflammation (look at the Nutrition Centre)
  • Keep to a healthy weight to limit stress on joints
  • Don't smoke - smokers are more likely to get RA.

Disclaimer

These programs provide general guidelines only and assumes no pre existing medical conditions. This program does not take into account any specific medical, physical or individual training advice requirements.  Please note it is not advisable to begin an exercise program whilst you are pregnant; please consult your physician for advice.

The information, facts, and opinions provided are no substitute for professional advice. Always consult your physician for any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and before undertaking an exercise or dietary program.

Please understand that you are solely responsible for your health selection and performance during the program, and do so at your own risk. In no way is Sue Stanley or Sue Stanley consultants or advisors who have contributed to the program are responsible for any kind of injuries or health problems that might occur due to the use of this program or the advice contained in it.