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Poor Sleep Worsens Rheumatoid Arthritis Problems

A study conducted by a team of researchers from Illinois found that poor sleep can increase the risk of disability due to rheumatoid arthritis.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

The immune system is responsible for protecting the body from viruses and other pathogenic organisms. But a disorder in the immune system can cause it to confuse healthy tissues and cells as foreign materials. This results to an autoimmune disease which leads to the development of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. RA, or rheumatoid arthritis, is a condition that causes the inflammation of joints and the tissues surrounding it. It can also affect other organs in the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis can happen at any age.  However, women are more often affected compared to men. RA usually affects the joints of the ankles, feet, knees, fingers and wrists. The severity and course of the disease can vary on a case-to-case basis. The primary contributors of the disease are hormones, certain genetic markers and infection. Various studies also show that certain habits like the lack of sleep can contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

Poor Sleep Can Increase the Likelihood of Disability from Rheumatoid Arthritis

A study published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine revealed that poor sleep is linked with higher risk of depressive symptoms, higher levels of pain and fatigue, and more functional disability in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers suggest treating sleeping problems through the help of behavioral and other forms of intervention to better overcome the painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

The study aims to investigate the relationship between functional disability in more than 16 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and their quality of sleep. The study participants had an average age of around 58 years and over 70 percent of them were women. All of the study participants were clinically diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis for no less than 2 years, and they all had been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for 14 years on an average.

The researchers asked the study participants to complete the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Medical Outcomes Study Short Form, the Health Assessment Questionnaire, and the Beck Depression Inventory. The results provided much needed information regarding the study participants’ quality of sleep, pain severity, functional disability, fatigue, and their depression levels. The participants were also asked to give their medical history and socio-demographic information.

The results of the study showed that a person’s quality of sleep has an indirect effect on functional disability after removing other factors like age, number of co-morbidities and gender. The results of the PSQI showed that more than 61 percent of the patients had poor sleep and 33 percent reported sleeping disturbances caused by joint pain in most days of the week.

Lead researcher from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing, Faith Luyster, said that the primary result of their study suggests that poor sleep was linked to worse cases of rheumatoid arthritis. She added that it is important to properly address the sleeping problems of rheumatoid arthritis patients through pharmacological and behavioral intervention.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects more than 1.3 million American adults and which causes stiffness, swelling, pain and loss of function in the joint area. People with rheumatoid arthritis normally complain about sleep disruptions and poor quality of sleep. Luyster added that not being able to sleep well at night can contribute to the severity of fatigue and pain which, in turn, bi-directionally affects their quality of sleep.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Risk Factors

It has been found that women are more at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than men. Adults aged 40 to 60 years are more likely to be infected with the condition. Genetic inclination and family history also plays a major role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Though medical experts say that the disease can’t be directly inherited, predispositions to rheumatoid arthritis can be passed on. Lastly, one of the adverse effects of smoking is a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Natural Ways to Fight Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Though the real cause of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown, medical experts say that the key to preventing the disease is protecting the joints from damage. The joints are built to perform the stress of basic tasks but joints with arthritis cannot take the stress of twisting, pulling and pushing.

A tip to protecting the joints from too much strain is by moving the joint to its full range of motion. This can help maintain the active motion of your joints. But remember not to overdo the exercise and keep the movement to where it is pain-free and in the range of your flexibility. Keep the movements gentle and slow. Forcing the joints to make movements beyond its range of motion can only result to damage and injury.

Doing basic tasks will, more often than not, require the movement of the joints. Another tip to prevent the risk of rheumatoid arthritis is knowing which tasks cause joint pain and by finding a way to avoid it. Lifting heavy objects can cause sudden jolts of pain. And if this happens, try to find a better way of doing it without experiencing the same pain, especially with tasks that you do every day. Remember to observe proper body mechanics when doing things.  This will not only make the task easier to complete, but it helps you avoid injuries as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis pain is common in the hand area. The hands are full of joints and pain in this area can result to functional disability. Try to use your hands more carefully. Avoid tasks that will need prolonged pinching and gripping. The motion of the fingers needs to be in the direction of the thumb and not the little finger. Opening jars for example will direct the force to the palm instead of just in the fingers. Try to use jar openers rather than doing it barehanded. Using tools with ergonomically designed handles will help prevent the onset of pain.

Different joints can endure different levels of tasks. The joints in the fingers can only do so much but other joints can do so much more. When doing certain heavy tasks for example, try to use your strongest joints. Avoid keeping the joints in the same position for an extended period of time. When writing, try to give your hands some rest for 10 to 15 minutes. When driving long distances, try to stop for a few minutes. Move out and stretch your joints.

Sources
eurekalert.org
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
medicinenet.com
mayoclinic.com
mayoclinic.com
mayoclinic.com

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