Maneuvering the tangled jungle of internet information searching for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) knowledge can be frustrating. Poorly explained information can be misleading and confusing. And that is on sites that are reputable. Dumbing down information just doesn’t work. Generalities don’t either.
The number one problem is mixing symptoms
of a disease with complications of a disease.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a symmetrical disease. When you have pain in your right hand, you will eventually have pain in your left hand too. Both sides are involved.
- RA sufferers endure stiff, painful joints especially in the morning. Symptoms stay with you longer than with other forms of arthritis.
- Fatigue is severe and overwhelming. And it has nothing to do with how much sleep you have had.
- RA is a progressive disease. You may start with one joint but soon enough you have multiple, symmetrical joints involved.
- Joints become swollen and tender. Not necessarily red and hot.
- Rheumatoid nodules don’t usually show up early in disease. They develop in established disease especially in those with seropositive disease.
The list of RA complications is a long one. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease. Inflammation consumes the body and creates a havoc that is difficult to control.
- Heart disease and atherosclerosis are number one complications.
- Interstitial lung disease starts quietly, grows and becomes deadly.
- RA causes a variety of eye diseases. The list goes on.
- Depression is a common complication of rheumatoid arthritis. What causes the depression? The chemical changes in the body caused by inflammation plus the difficulty of managing the painful symptoms combine to be powerful reasons for depression. In addition there are genetic links between RA and depression.
- RA drugs are potent. They have their own set of side effects and complications. Life threatening infections are common with depressed immune systems of RA. After being on methotrexate for five years, I developed a severe infection in radiated breast tissue. It was black box warning number thirteen for methotrexate. It took ten months to heal.
The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is considered the authority for rheumatoid arthritis in the USA. They develop the diagnosis and treatment criteria for RA to guide doctors in their decision-making process. Their patient information site is worth reviewing.
Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center is one of my favorites. Check out their patient information site.
The RA drug companies have their own web sites. These sites are flashy, but they do have useful information. They clearly state the complications of their drugs. And admit that some people die from complications of their drug. If you are on a RA drug, you would be wise to review the drug site and determine for yourself if you feel the benefit outweighs the risks.
The internet is an excellent source of rheumatoid arthritis information. It is much better to search the useful sites than to limit yourself to the few statements made by your rheumatologist in your thirty-minute appointment. Combining both will enable you to make the right decisions for your body.