10 misconceptions about RA

There are so many myths floating around the world today… here are a few that irritate the crap out of me.

–Rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone the same way.

Kind of like one of my LEAST favorite RA commercials… My RA isn’t your RA.  I had 28 joints involved at one time.  Now I have four, so not only is my RA different from everyone else’s, mine is currently different from what it was before.  Mine may be different a year from now than it is now, that’s why maintaining a frequent open dialog with my Rheumy is critical.
It affects mainly joints, but can also damage heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and eyes.

–Only old people get rheumatoid arthritis.

Only people who are alive can get RA.  OSTEOARTHRITIS is more common in older people but RA touches the lives of 1 our of 750 women in their 20s and 1 in 2800 men in their 20s, and can affect children as well.

–If you don’t look “sick,” you don’t really have rheumatoid arthritis.

This one I think is the one that irritates people who have RA more than anything.  I have never looked sick (except maybe when I had the flu).  Yet, I have joint damage in my fingers and my toes.  I ache.  My body is fighting itself, but to look at me, you can’t tell.
Even at the end of both of my half marathons, I have hurt and been amazingly tired, but I don’t look like it.
And add to that, I’m me.  So… I, yeah, I am the Mary Sunshine one who doesn’t let on no matter how much I ache.  You have to be quick to catch a wince when I move the wrong way to even think maybe.

–Rheumatoid arthritis is a normal part of aging.

RA is a disease.  It is your immune system turning on your body and fighting it like it were a disease.  Despite nearly 1.5 million Americans having RA, that is by far not the majority, so it isn’t ‘normal’

–Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms aren’t treatable.

RA isn’t curable, but it can be forced back and the damaging pain and inflammation can be treated.  As I said, I used to have 28 involved joints and now I’m down to 4.  The pain is way lower than it used to be.  If I had gone earlier to the doctor, I probably would have made it much quicker to where I am now.

–Rheumatoid arthritis quickly leads to disability.

According to my Rheumy, she has gotten four people disablity in the last two years.  There is nothing to say that you can not live a long and reasonably comfortable life.  You can be productive.  You may need to change how you do some things, you may have to be creative.  You may even have to rethink your career and change what you do (maybe re-start an old dream?) but even if you can’t work, you can still be productive by being a volunteer or communicating on line and providing your wisdom to other people.  The only thing I can say is that if you resort to continuous whining, you will end up making yourself feel more bitter and less at peace.

–If you have arthritis, you shouldn’t do physical activities.

I have walked two half marathons very quickly.  I know other people with RA (some in my yoga class) who are also active and who can do things to keep themselves active.  Again, you may have to change how you do things, make adjustments.  Even if you can only do corpse pose in yoga (laying and relaxing and breathing and taking account in your own body) you can still be physical and find your relaxation and peace. Trite and irritating as the phrase and the commercial is, My RA isn’t your RA, but you can do something and even the smallest and easiest movements help your mobility.

Staying as physical as your body will allow will also help you feel as normal as you can and keep you from getting as depressed as quickly and easily.

–Any exercise is good for rheumatoid arthritis.

Despite what my coworkers ASSURE me, loudly and repeatedly, this is not true.  My doctor (who I check with no matter what changes I’m making) has told me that I personally should not do Pilates… yoga is okay for me, and walking a half marathon (NOT RUNNING… never running… but walking very fast) is great.  The chick on TV can do stairs and the gym machines and the guy on TV who is helping her seems to be cool with weights.  Ask your doctor what you should avoid.  And, if it hurts, it is not a deal of no pain no gain… if it hurts, stop, or reign it way in.  You would be surprised what a work out just walking back and forth in the pool, or sitting on the steps of the pool and just moving your arms and legs in the water can be.

It irritates me SO much that I get dumped on by OH SO WELL MEANING (saccharine sweet sarcasm) people I work with because the wonderful exercise that they manage to do for three MAYBE four weeks until they give up because it is too hard is the exact thing I should be doing all the time.  They look me in the eye while I’m wearing my half marathon finisher shirt and tell me I’m just too lazy to do THEIR routine, and I’m using my doctor as an excuse.

Yeah, that’s it, skippy… I’m just lazy.

–Living in a hot, dry climate can cure your rheumatoid arthritis.

It can NOT cure RA.  It may actually irritate some people’s RA.  Again, each person is different… each person can have different things that cause a flair.  Is it worth a shot to see if it will ease some of your symptoms?  Maybe.  That is a judgement call.  If it helps, YAY, if it doesn’t, it might be costly to relocate again… But CURE it, no.

–You should wait until you have serious joint problems before you start taking medications.

You shoud seek medical advice LONG before you have serious joint problems.  Once you have serious problems (and yeah, this is me, the choir, singing about the sermon) you already probably have serious damage.  The sooner you can go and see about symptoms that MIGHT be RA, the easier it will be to fight the beasty and the fewer potential long term joint issues you may actually have.  And don’t be so afraid of injections that you make the same stupid mistakes I made.  I could have saved a whole year of feeling exhausted and pukey if I had sucked it up and tried injections from the get go of Methotrexate.

One response to “10 misconceptions about RA

  1. Very good information. Faye


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