This post is especially for people who’ve just been diagnosed with RA:
You’ve just discovered you have rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor talked to you about it, but now you’re at home, and you can’t really remember much of what she said. You were so shocked! “Arthritis!” you mutter to yourself, staring at the sore, swollen knuckles that prompted your initial visit to the doctor in the first place. Now, the results of the blood test in hand along with your list of symptoms, she’s given you the news and referred you to a rheumatologist.
Naturally, you’re feeling a bit bewildered. Angry, too, now that the shock is wearing off. “That can’t be right. I’m too young! And I’m healthy! I go to the gym almost every day!”
Don’t feel alone. The fact is, most people who’re given a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis are baffled—at least initially. There’s a good reason: We tend to think of arthritis as a disease that older people get—maybe even very old people. But anyone of any age can get RA, from infants to octegenarians, though three times more women than men get it. The “arthritis” we hear the most about is actually osteoarthritis, the common “wear andu tear” arthritis that sometimes strikes middle-to-older-aged people.
But you’re only 26! The doctor has to be wrong!
She’s not. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. With RA, your own immune system—your body’s natural defense against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses—attacks it’s own tissues by mistake. RA generally goes after the lining and fluid between the joints. It causes inflammation, which in turn causes heat, swelling and pain. That sore shoulder you had last week? The one that made washing your hair, blowing it dry and getting dressed before work in the morning a study in courage and determination?
Yep. Rheumatoid arthritis.
RA also attacks the soft tissues of the body. It can go after the heart, the lungs, the eyes, even the veins. It affect joints on both sides of the body in a symmetrical manner. And leaving it untreated just invites it to do its worst: cause awful joint deformity and permanent disability—not to mention pain.
As things stand today, rheumatoid arthritis is still incurable. That doesn’t mean it’s untreatable, because you can treat this disease. The medications available today can greatly decrease the pain and disability of the disease while slowing it’s progress down to a snail’s pace. They can even—and sometimes do—put the disease into remission.
So, newbie: Here’s your assignment. Learn as much as you can about rheumatoid arthritis. The more you know, the better off you’ll be. Click to watch this short, thorough video about what rheumatoid arthritis is, how it affects those who are diagnosed with it and how it’s treated: www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis .