Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition, which means it’s caused by the immune system attacking healthy body tissue. Your immune system normally makes antibodies that attack bacteria and viruses, helping to fight infection. But, as the NHS explains, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mistakenly sends antibodies to the lining of your joints, where they attack the tissue surrounding the joint. Many of these joint problems can be concentrated in the hands.
A number of these symptoms may indicate carpal tunnel syndrome – a complication of rheumatoid arthritis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve – this nerve runs from your forearm through a narrow passageway in your wrist (the carpal tunnel) to your hand, explains the Arthritis Foundation (AF).
According to the AF, carpal tunnel syndrome may cause hands and fingers to:
- Feel numb
- Feel swollen (even if they are not actually swollen).
“Without treatment, burning and tingling may travel up the arm,” warns the health body.
READ MORE: Arthritis symptoms: Three ‘mystery’ signs of painful arthritis you may be missing
There is evidence that improving your diet can counter the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
What’s more, eating healthily can promote weight loss, which eases the pressure on joints.
“Salmon, tuna, sardines, herring and other cold-water fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help control inflammation,” says the Arthritis Foundation (AF).
What’s more, fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants; compounds which help stabilise molecules called free radicals that can trigger inflammation and damage cells, notes the health body.
Many of these dietary components can be found in a Mediterranean-style diet.
Studies show that a Mediterranean diet, which consists of lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, is a good choice for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), a vegetarian diet may help relieve symptoms for some.
But you should speak to your doctor or dietitian to make sure you are still getting enough nutrients, the BDA advises.
Regular exercise is also key to managing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
When you’re in pain and feel fatigued, being physically active may be the last thing on your mind.
But research shows that exercise helps to relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and improve day-to-day functioning.
“Make sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program and incorporate a mix of flexibility, range of motion, aerobic and strengthening exercises,” advises the Arthritis Foundation (AF).