Helpful information about RA
RA is an inflammatory poly-arthritis (affects 5 or more joints).
RA is an autoimmune disorder.
There are well over 80 disorders in this category including diabetes, lupus and multiple sclerosis. With an autoimmune disorder, the body sees its own cells as foreign bodies. The body’s defense system goes on attack.
In RA the membrane (synovium) lining the joints become thickened. Inflammation, swelling, serious pain and stiffness result.
RA is a systemic disorder. It affects more than the joints. With release of certain chemicals into the bloodstream, extreme fatigue is common. A low grade fever can be present suggesting inflammation.
RA can affect many places in the body.
Joint damage can occur quickly. Once the joints are damaged, deformity and pain can last a lifetime.
The goal of aggressive treatment is to avoid joint damage while at the same time relieving pain.
RA presents differently in different people.
Onset may be sudden and affect many joints. It may sneak up on you by starting in a small joint in fingers or toes. It usually goes on to be symmetrical, meaning both sides of the body, both hands, both wrists.
RA usually is progressive. For many it is a lifelong disease to be managed.
Individuals respond differently to different drugs.
A good rheumatologist will find the right combination for you.
Prednisone can be very helpful in acute phases. It is not given in the huge doses of yesteryear. It can be safe and affective. I have a healthy respect for it. It has helped me.
Methotrexate is usually the first line of defense. It is a safe drug. It is a cancer drug, but it is given in a much smaller dose than it would be given for cancer. Some can’t tolerate it because of stomach issues. There are tricks to taking it. Still some use the injection form. Others move on to another drug. I am on Methotrexate and am fortunate not to have side effects.
more people as they get older. However, babies get it, children get it. It affects women of all ages. Some men get it too.
The cause of RA is unknown. There is a genetic component. Environmental factors play a part. There seems to be a link with smoking.
Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center and the CDC are reliable resources. There are also several excellent books on coming to terms with RA.
Once the medical treatment starts to work, there is much to work on: diet, exercise, joint flexibility. Most importantly, learning to pace oneself is valuable.
There are balances to be found. There is a balance between activity and rest. There is a balance between treatment and symptoms.
Be optimistic because you will find your balance and life will be good again.