I Can Still Lead A Normal Life
With earlier diagnosis and more effective, tailored treatments available, it is now possible for more people with RA to lead a more normal life.
This makes it especially important for people living with RA to have regular and open conversations with their doctor to discuss personal goals and their options.
Your Gentle Support Is So Welcome
Everything about my life has changed and I am having a really hard time coping. I feel like the healthy me died and now instead, I have to learn to live in this body that has betrayed me. There are so many physical changes, so much time dedicated to medical appointments, and figuring out how to fit all of that into my life. Everything feels overwhelming.
I know Im not always coping well. To be honest, I am really sad and also really angry. Im doing my best to learn what to do so I can still be your family member and your friend, but Im struggling. I know its hard for you to understand it all and that its difficult watch me go through this. I need your help, but please dont try to fix me. Right now, the thing I need the most is your love, patience, and support. I need some hugsgentle ones, pleasesome laughs, and some practical help. A phone call or visit would be wonderful, maybe a freezer meal, a ride to the doctor, or help with some chores. But most of all, I need you to just listen and try to understand.
This Is What Rheumatoid Arthritis Actually Feels Like
Most people think arthritis only affects those hovering around retirement age. But rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder, can actually strike those in their 20s or 30s. And unlike some other rheumatic diseases, the side effects of the condition extend beyond joint pain and stiffness.
With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the lining of the joints, causing pain and swelling, as well as less-talked-about symptoms like extreme fatigue and rashesand that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what it’s really like to live with rheumatoid arthritis:
In the beginning, rheumatoid arthritis often manifests as stiffness and tenderness in the hands, wrist, or feet. But because early symptoms may also mimic other conditions, it can take a while for doctors to diagnose.
“It took about six months to get diagnosed. During that time, I felt like I was constantly fighting a cold. I had muscle aches, red, hot, swollen joints, and extreme fatigue.” Jennifer Maggiore, 39, Phoenix, Arizona
“The joints in my fingers, wrists, jaw, ankles, and feet were constantly in pain. I also had an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion that sleep didn’t help with.” Staci Penner, 43, North Newton, Kansas
“Dating has been touchy. I often push potential partners away for fear of them not being able to handle or understand my condition.” Angharad Chester-Jones, 36, Charleston, South Carolina
My Ra Has Made It Difficult To Perform At Work
Struggling to be productive or having to miss work because of painful flare-ups can be a real worry for people with RA.
In fact, a survey of 1,000 people with RA found that a third of them had given up work because of their disease and less than half had been offered support by their workplace.14
If you work with someone with RA, understanding that they can have good days and bad days can help to relieve the stress and pressure they sometimes feel at work.
What Treatment Options Are Available For Ra
There are medications that help manage RA symptoms and control inflammation, such as NSAIDs, corticosteroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, and biologics. However, there are non-medication treatment options as well. Non-pharmacologic treatment options include rest, exercise, physical and occupational therapies, dietary management, and, in some cases, surgery.
Don’t Miss: Can You Eat Tomatoes If You Have Arthritis
What Osteoarthritis Pain Feels Like
Pain is pain, right? It just plain hurts. But for your doctor to figure out whether your joint pain stems from osteoarthritis, which develops as cartilage wears away, youll need to be specific about when the pain occurs, how bad it is, and the ways it’s affecting you.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis that may help you identify and better describe your pain to your doctor:
- Pain that aches deep into the joint
- Pain that feels better with rest
- Pain that isn’t noticeable in the morning but gets worse throughout the day
- Pain that radiates into your buttocks, thighs, or groin
- Joint pain that affects your posture and gait and may cause limping
- Pain that occurs after using the joint
- Swelling in the joint
- Not being able to move the joint as much as usual
- Feeling a sensation of bones grating or catching on something when moving the joint
- Pain during certain activities, like standing from a seated position or using stairs
- Pain that interferes with work, daily activities, and exercise
- Joint stiffness first thing in the morning that improves with time
- Stiffness after resting the joint
Things People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Want You To Know
Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive and disabling autoimmune inflammatory disease that affects 35-70 million people worldwide.1,2 Theres more to RA than just developing stiff joints as you get older read on to find out how the disease really affects those living with it and what they would like you to know.
Recommended Reading: Is Gluten Bad For Arthritis
/8decrease In The Range Of Motion
Joint stiffness and tenderness may also make it difficult for the person to move freely. In the initial phase of rheumatoid arthritis, a person may have difficulty in moving the wrist back and forth and performing exercises. With time the disease will progress and start damaging their ligaments and tendons, making it difficult to bend and straighten them.
What Does Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Elbow Feel Like
Like all the other joints in your body, the elbow is likely to be affected by arthritis. However, unlike many joints, the elbows are more likely to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis. This type of arthritis is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. Typically, rheumatoid arthritis occurs in all your joints at the same time, and this means both of your elbows could be affected. This form of arthritis can also cause you to feel several unpleasant sensations in your elbow joint. Here are three common feelings that rheumatoid arthritis can cause in the elbow:
One sensation that rheumatoid arthritis can cause in the elbow is the feeling that your elbow is swollen. When rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joints, its attacks are focused on the lining of the joints. These attacks tend to cause the soft tissue in the joint to become inflamed. Your body responds to this inflammation by sending fluid into the elbow, and this excess fluid is what makes your elbow feel swollen.
Don’t Miss: What Helps With Arthritis In Back
Sufferers Describe What Ra Feels Like
I was curious to see how others living with RA would explain how it feels particularly the impact of pain. The responses I received were both familiar and distinctive, so I wanted to share a few of them:
I always describe RA as having the flu the day after a car accident. Molly, age 36, living with arthritis for four years.
I feel like a moody hormonal teenager most days. Some days I am able to move freely, no medicine, no one stopping me. Other days I cant open my hands, wear shoes, or even comfortably wear pants on my RA stricken hips.
My body feels like its shutting down completely and no matter how much medication I take the only way I find relief is to remember in the back of my head that Im going to be ok. Karlie, age 25, living with arthritis for two years.
I feel like most of the day I could lay down anywhere and take a nap, even after sleeping a full night. When joints hurt the best way I can describe it is that it feels like a hammer hit me. It makes the joint so tender that even the thought of a bed sheet touching it makes you wince Brandi, age 33, living with arthritis for 20 years
Some days it feels like I was brutally beaten up with a golf club, while other days it is more of a tight, throbbing ache as if a vice grip is increasingly tightened around my joints or what I imagine it would feel like if a body could rust.
What Joints Does Ra Affect
RA usually starts in your hands. The most common affected areas on your body are:
- The knuckle where each finger meets your hand
- The first joint in your fingers
But RA can appear anywhere on your body, including:
- Finger joint closest to the thumbnail
Your symptoms usually are symmetrical, meaning that they show up in the same joints on both sides of your body.
It doesnât happen often, but RA can also affect joints in your voice box called the cricoarytenoid joints. It can make your voice hoarse. Rarely, you may lose your voice.
Also Check: What Can You Do For Arthritis In The Neck
Seeking Help When Symptoms Cannot Be Contained
The tipping point for seeking professional help is reached when multiple symptoms cannot be controlled by even increased self-management strategies, and patients cannot run their normal lives . They may be supported or prompted in this decision by family:
When its all over, along with the other symptoms that I know I get with inflammation, thats my personal tipping point
In such a place of despair I think I just cant go on with this anymore and Im trying this medication and Im trying to pace my working, Im trying to have so many hours sleep and Im still waking up in pain. and its still not working
The reason that I end up running back to crying is, Ive got 3 young children and I teach and its where it gets to the point where I cant function any more its got to the point where Im not coping, the household chores just arent being done and I just beat myself up because I cant be like all the other mums and do little things for the kids. If its not me its my husband, hell say You need to go and get some reinforcement and usually I go to the GP .
But Wait Ra Gets More Complicated: Symptoms And Causes
Rheumatoid arthritis can be complex. The specific reasons why some people develop it and others dont remain unknown. However, the medical community does know what may increase the risk and likelihood of developing the disease, such as having more levels of whats called rheumatoid factor in your blood .
In addition, while RA is considered a chronic condition meaning it has no cure and will never fully go away how severe the symptoms get differ from person to person, and flares may wax and wane. For example, when the disease is more active , symptoms become worse. When symptoms disappear, either on their own or with treatment, patients go into remission.3
Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Since RA is an autoimmune disorder that attacks ones own body tissues, researchers are focusing on why these mistakes occur.5
One factor that may play a role in the development of RA is that many people with the condition have higher levels of an antibody in their immune system: enter rheumatoid factor or RF for short. Low levels of this antibody can be present in healthy individuals or in people with other inflammatory conditions, but individuals with RA have higher levels of RF, as well as another antibody, the anti-CCP antibody. Both antibodies are signs of hyperactive immunity doctors use them to help confirm the diagnosis of RA.
Despite the unknowns about the causes of RA, there are some risk factors for developing this condition:6-10
Recommended Reading: Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be Fatal
What To Do If You Have Malaise
Malaise can be a warning sign of a larger medical issue, or an unpleasant side effect of living with chronic illness. Either way, it is important to let your health care provider know when youre experiencing this unpleasant feeling. They will be able to run tests and offer treatments to help you through.
Other Body Parts Ra Can Affect
- Bones. The chemicals that cause inflammation can also take a bite out of your bones. It often affects your hips and spine. Sometimes, itâs a byproduct of years of treating RA with steroids.
- Liver and kidneys. Itâs rare for RA to affect these organs. But the drugs that treat it can. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be bad for both. Cyclosporine may cause kidney disease. Methotrexate can damage your liver.
- Immune system. The medications you take can slow it down. This makes you more likely to get infections.
- Mucous membranes. You might be more likely to get a condition called Sjogrenâs syndrome that dries out moist places in your body like your eyes, your mouth, and inside your nose.
- Muscles. When inflammation stops you from moving your joints, the attached muscles can get weak. Or you could get a condition called myositis that weakens them. The medications you take for RA can also be to blame.
- Nerves. RA causes symptoms that range from numbness and tingling to paralysis. It can result from joint damage that RA causes, the disease process itself, or medications that treat it.
- Blood vessels. RA can cause inflammation of your blood vessels. It can show up as spots on the skin or can cause ulcers in more severe cases.
You May Like: Is Wd40 Good For Arthritis
Flare Types And Triggers
- Predictable flares have a known trigger. For example, you decide to clean your house from top to bottom one day, overdo it and end up with swollen, stiff joints the next day. Overexertion, poor sleep, stress or an infection like the flu can all set off RA symptoms. With a predictable flare youll temporarily feel worse, but your symptoms will resolve in time.
- Unpredictable flares have more uncertainty associated with them. These flares cause patients to feel worse, but did not have a trigger that was causing symptoms to get worse. These flares might not get better on their own.
Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting about 27 million people in the United States. Osteoarthritis is caused by degeneration of cartilage, and is also known as degenerative arthritis. In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by the immune system attacking the joints. This autoimmune process causes systemic inflammation, while in osteoarthritis, mechanical degeneration causes localized inflammation.
Osteoarthritis commonly affects a single joint, such as one knee. Trauma, such as multiple injuries playing sports, is a risk factor for osteoarthritis. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis usually affects three or more joints, in a symmetric distribution . Rheumatoid arthritis frequently, but not always, causes elevation in blood levels of substances that are markers of systemic inflammation such as the ESR and CRP . In contrast, osteoarthritis does not cause abnormal blood test results. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are hereditary. For example, if a woman has osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, her/his children are at increased risk of developing the same type of arthritis.
Don’t Miss: How To Cure Arthritis In Shoulder
What Does Arthritis Pain Feel Like
Are you wondering if the pain and stiffness in your hips, knees, or fingers are caused by arthritis? Here’s how you and your doctor can decide.
Hardly anyone escapes the annoyance of occasional aches and pains, especially as they age. But persistent joint pain and stiffness can be signs of arthritis, which affects more than 54.4 million American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . By 2040, an estimated 78 million American adults are projected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
Are There Any Home Remedies For Rheumatoid Arthritis
If someone has joint pain or stiffness, he or she may think it is just a normal part of getting older and that there is nothing he or she can do. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are several options for medical treatment and even more to help prevent further joint damage and symptoms. Discuss these measures with a health-care professional to find ways to make them work.
- First of all, don’t delay diagnosis or treatment. Having a correct diagnosis allows a health-care professional to form a treatment plan. Delaying treatment increases the risk that the arthritis will get worse and that serious complications will develop.
- Learn everything about rheumatoid arthritis. If there are any questions, ask a health-care professional. If any questions remain, ask the health-care professional to provide reliable sources of information. Some resources are listed later in this article.
- Know the pros and cons of all of treatment options, and work with a health-care professional to decide on the best options. Understand the treatment plan and what benefits and side effects can be expected.
- Learn about the symptoms. If someone has rheumatoid arthritis, he or she probably has both general discomfort and pain in specific joints. Learn to tell the difference. Pain in a specific joint often results from overuse. Pain in a joint that lasts more than one hour after an activity probably means that that activity was too stressful and should be avoided.
Increase physical activity.