What Should You Avoid If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Low angle wide shot of middle aged women in knee pain, holding his knee

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a journey filled with challenges and discoveries. To help you navigate this path with fewer hitches, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of things to be cautious about, enriched with expert advice and insights.

What Exactly Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis, often abbreviated as RA, is a type of autoimmune disorder. This means that the body’s immune system, which usually fights off harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks the joints. This self-attack can cause swelling, pain, and over time, potential joint damage.

A woman looking questioned on a white background

How Does RA Differ From Other Types of Arthritis?

Multiplicity of Arthritis Types: There are over 100 distinct forms of arthritis, making the condition a complex area of study.

Symmetrical Impact:

RA is unique in its tendency to affect joints on both sides of the body simultaneously.

Commonly affected areas include both hands, knees, or ankles.

Comparison with Osteoarthritis (OA):

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): An autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the body’s joints.

  • Osteoarthritis (OA): A degenerative joint disease primarily caused by aging and wear-and-tear on a joint. It predominantly impacts cartilage.

Why Do People Get RA?

Arthritis Foundation, Why Do People Get Rheumatoid arthritis

Unknown Primary Cause: The exact reason people develop RA is not yet completely understood.

Research Insights:

National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies suggest RA’s cause is multifactorial, involving both genetic and environmental elements.

Possible triggers include:

  • Infections: Certain infections might act as catalysts for RA onset in genetically predisposed individuals.

  • Stress Factors: Both physical injuries and emotional stress events could potentially play roles in RA development.

  • Hormonal Shifts: Changes in hormone levels, such as those during pregnancy or menopause, have been associated with RA onset or flare-ups.

How Does RA Impact The Body Over Time?

Initially, the lining of the joints, called the synovium, gets inflamed. If not managed, this inflammation can erode bone and cartilage inside the joint. Over the years, the joint can lose its shape, leading to loss of movement.

But RA isn’t just about joints. It’s systemic, which means it can impact organs like the heart, lungs, and eyes. Leading rheumatology experts, such as those from the Mayo Clinic, have also noted links between RA and a higher risk of conditions like heart disease.

A doctor discussing a health report with a patient

What Should You Avoid If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis? 

Navigating life with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) can be a challenge. As you embark on this journey, understanding the do’s and don’ts can make a world of difference. Let’s dive deeper into the crucial mistakes and habits you should sidestep, alongside some practical tips to optimize your well-being.

1. The Medical Perspective: What Doctors Want You to Avoid

  • Not Seeking Help from a Rheumatologist: A rheumatologist can tailor a treatment plan for you. Many leading health institutions, including the Mayo Clinic, stress the importance of early intervention with a specialist.

2. Lifestyle Choices: Common Pitfalls and Better Alternatives

  • Ignoring Physical Activity: Don’t let pain deter you. Incorporate gentle exercises like tai chi or swimming, known for their arthritis-friendly benefits.

  • Neglecting Mental Health: Emotional well-being plays a huge role. Support groups, therapy, and mindfulness practices can be invaluable.

3. Medication Management: Ensuring Effective Treatment

  • Not Taking Prescribed Medications: Each drug serves a purpose. If you’re concerned about side effects or costs, there are patient assistance programs and alternative medications.

  • Skipping Medication on Good Days: Consistency is vital. As experts from Johns Hopkins University point out, irregular medication can trigger RA flares.

4. Unseen Dangers: Lesser-Known Issues RA Patients Face

  • Ignoring Sleep: Sleep disturbances are common with RA. Prioritize good sleep hygiene; poor rest can exacerbate symptoms.

  • Overlooking Weather Sensitivity: Some RA patients find that weather changes, particularly cold or damp conditions, can intensify symptoms. Dress warmly and consider using heating pads.

5. Dietary Decisions: Foods, Drinks, and Supplements

  • Alcohol Consumption: While moderate drinking may not be harmful, excessive alcohol, especially when combined with certain RA medications, can pose risks.

  • Ignoring Gut Health: Research in Clinical Rheumatology suggests a potential link between gut health and RA. Consider probiotics and a diet rich in fiber.

6. Social and Emotional Challenges: Navigating Relationships and Work

  • Isolation: Living with RA can sometimes feel isolating. Seek out local support groups or online communities to share experiences and get advice.

  • Work Strain: If your job is physically demanding, consider discussing accommodations with your employer or seeking roles that are less taxing on your joints.

7. The Future with RA: Planning and Adapting

  • Not Preparing for Flare-Ups: Always have a kit ready with essential medications, comforting items, and emergency contact information.

  • Overlooking Long-term Financial Planning: Consider future medical expenses and, if necessary, changes in employment status. Financial advisors experienced with chronic illness planning can provide guidance.

Treatment and Management:

Modern medicine has advanced impressively in treating RA. Medications can help in pain management, reduce inflammation, and even slow down joint damage. Lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and, in some severe cases, surgery might be recommended. Regular check-ups and early intervention, as advocated by the American College of Rheumatology, can drastically improve the quality of life for RA patients.

Female physical therapist giving therapy to patient


Rheumatoid Arthritis is a complex autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints but can have far-reaching impacts on the body and overall well-being. It is essential to work closely with a healthcare professional to manage the condition and make informed decisions about your health. Understanding RA is the first step towards taking control of your life and living it on your own terms.


What is the best thing to do if you have rheumatoid arthritis?

The best approach to managing RA is a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and regular check-ups with a rheumatologist. Following a balanced diet, engaging in low-impact exercises, getting enough rest, and managing stress are essential. Your rheumatologist can prescribe medications to control inflammation, pain, and slow down the disease’s progression.

What are coping skills for arthritis?

Coping with RA involves both physical and emotional strategies. Physically, engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and following your medication regimen can be beneficial. Emotionally, consider joining support groups, practicing stress-relief techniques like meditation or deep breathing, and speaking with a therapist if you’re struggling to cope with the diagnosis.

What is the best home remedy for rheumatism?

While home remedies can provide some relief from RA symptoms, they should not replace a comprehensive treatment plan prescribed by a healthcare professional. That said, applying heat or cold packs, engaging in gentle exercises, and eating anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish, berries, and olive oil can help. Additionally, some people find relief with supplements like turmeric or omega-3 fatty acids but consult your doctor before starting any new supplement.

What can I drink for rheumatism?

Staying hydrated is essential for overall health, including joint health. Water is the best choice. You can also consider drinking herbal teas like green tea, which is rich in antioxidants. Some people find relief from inflammation with tart cherry juice, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Avoid sugary drinks and excessive caffeine.

How do I know if my rheumatoid arthritis is getting worse?

Monitoring your symptoms can help you identify if your RA is getting worse. Watch out for increased joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. If you’re experiencing more frequent or severe flares, it may be a sign that your RA is progressing. Other signs could include increased fatigue, reduced range of motion, or new joints being affected. Report any changes in symptoms to your rheumatologist, as it may indicate a need to adjust your treatment plan.

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