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  • Writer's pictureDr. Chris Phillips

Part 1: The Connection Between Inflammation and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis often gets confused with osteoarthritis - the “wear and tear” arthritis that occurs when the cartilage covering the ends of bones breakdowns. Yet, those living with rheumatoid arthritis know it’s far from your everyday degenerative joint disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system malfunctions and ends up attacking your own body by going after healthy cells and tissues instead of protecting them.

As a result, inflammation develops. This is why rheumatoid arthritis is much more than just an autoimmune disease … rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder.

Good and Bad Inflammation

In today’s society, the term “inflammation” is somewhat of a buzzword. It’s a hot topic and a simple Internet search of “how to reduce inflammation” will yield all sorts of suggestions.

It is important to understand there are two different kinds of inflammation - acute and chronic.

Acute Inflammation: This is the good type. In fact, acute inflammation is vital to the health and wellbeing of your body. It races in to save the day when you are injured or have an infection from a virus or bacteria.

Acute inflammation could be considered a signal that alerts the immune system that there is a need for an army of white blood cells to help heal a certain area of the body. It’s extremely beneficial and 100% necessary for the body to rev up an inflammatory response at times.

Chronic Inflammation: This is the bad type. Chronic inflammation is harmful to the body and creates long-lasting problems.

It’s because the body’s inflammatory response wasn’t meant to go on for days, weeks, months, or even years. Inflammation is supposed to shut on and off, coming to the rescue only when needed to help the immune system fight back intruders.

That’s why autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation go hand-in-hand. Both affect the body’s natural ability and capacity to function as it should. Both create life-altering symptoms. Both damage healthy cells, tissues, and even organs.

Visual Vs. Hidden Inflammation

Acute inflammation and chronic inflammation should not be ignored.

There is a problem, though. Acute inflammation is often times open and obvious, while chronic inflammation is invisible and hidden.

For example, let’s say you have a bug bite that gets infected. The infection makes your skin appear red, look swollen, and feel hot to the touch. These visual inflammatory symptoms have you concerned and you decide to head to the doctor.

Once examined, the doctor agrees that the inflamed bug bite is indeed infected. You are prescribed a course of antibiotics and you get on your way.

Next, you begin taking those antibiotics and within a few days you start to see improvements. Then before you know it, the infected bug bite is a thing of the past.

Well, life with chronic inflammation is not so cut and dry. Fixing chronic inflammation is not as simple as taking a ten-day course of prescribed medicine to clear up a single inflamed area.

In fact, chronic inflammation can hide extremely well until the damage is already done.

There will be no outward symptoms .. until there is. There will be no health concerns … until there is. There will be no significant interruptions to your life … until there is.

Why It Is Vital Reduce Inflammation

There is a near endless list of symptoms brought on by long-term chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

You have the more common symptoms such as joint pain, muscle weakness, fever, fatigue, and coordination issues. On the other hand, you have the more severe ones such as:

  • Heart disease

  • Kidney failure

  • Lung disease

  • Stroke

  • Insulin resistance

  • Permanent nerve damage

  • Eye and vision problems

  • Cancer

Our goal at Paducah Rheumatology is to address chronic inflammation before it gets to these life-threatening consequences.

As part of our approach to improving the quality of life for our patients, we formulate individualized treatment plans. We feel personalized care is a critical component to overcoming the challenges that come with autoimmune diseases.

Our treatment plans often include one or more of the following:

  • Over-the-counter and prescribed medications

  • Vitamin and herbal supplements

  • Physical therapy

  • Occupational therapy

  • Massage therapy

  • Diet

  • Exercise

  • Lifestyle changes

  • Mental health support

Autoimmune diseases are complex. Many of our patients require a multi-faceted treatment plan that targets the inflammatory response in numerous ways.

Did you know that following an ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET is one of the most popular ways to reduce inflammation?

Are you interested in learning more?

Excellent, you are in the right place!

Our three-part blog series walks you through what you CAN and CANNOT eat as part of an anti-inflammatory diet.

Now that you understand more about how autoimmune diseases work and why you need to take steps toward minimizing chronic inflammation, you are ready to learn about one of the most common inflammatory triggers out there - FOOD!

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