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Managing school/job with RA?

Hello. I was diagnosed with JIA nine years ago in my hands(wrists and fingers) and feet(ankles and toes).

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms progressing
For a couple of years the pain and mobility have been going downhill. It seems really random; some days my fingers are awful and other days it's my wrists, but it's all been getting consistently worse. Doing fine motor things is difficult for me, like writing, typing, opening doors, and I dread having to wash my hair.

Managing school and work with RA
For the last couple years I have been doing part-time online school. I really enjoy it, but it is slow going as I have to skip days because the pain is too great, and I can't seem to do anything when my hands aren't 'warm'.

The only thing that seems to help is scorching them with a heating bag. Focusing/concentrating has been difficult, I have a hard time remembering things, and I often feel very tired. Has anyone else experienced this? Are there any things that could help me cope? I have also been looking for a job, only I have been unable to find one that I think I could manage on a day-to-day basis.

It is really frustrating because the people around me keep pushing me to get one and giving me suggestions, but I honestly don't think I would be able to do them. And I wonder if anybody would even want to hire a person with RA. Has anybody else experienced this? Any suggestions of things that might help? I would love to hear your thoughts.

  1. Charlie27:

    You ask several questions and all are important. However I will not be able to answer them all. but here goes.

    Fatigue: I think that fatigue is common for those of us who live with RA.

    Hands: My hands are usually cold. However I cannot say it is associated with RA. I also have diabetes and have have neuropathy as a result. I suggest you ask your physician. One thing I do for my hands is use a paraffin bath. I love the feeling of the warmth and the paraffin adds moisture to my hands.

    School - Each of us are different and my RA is not the same as yours. However I was able to complete a doctorate in in four years going part time education at age 59 with my dissertation taking 10 months to complete. I know school can be challenging, but I feel certain you can do it.

    Work - I suggest that you talk to your docotr about your hands. there are many jobs that do not require fine motor skills, but since I do not know your age I am not certain what your interests and aptitude might be.

    If you are in college please go to the guidance office to ask for career counseling and your disability services office for modifications that might help you both today and in the future.

    If you are in High School please talk to your guidance counselor. They can help advise about future and jobs. If you have difficulty contact your state employment agency and ask how to contact the local disability services agency. They help people locate and work in jobs that fit them. I believe they will try to help you find and be successful in all kinds of positions.

    I realize I have not answered each question, but i hope I have helped. I wish you the veyr best good luck.

    rick - moderator

    1. Thanks, . I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and you did a good job of it. You gave a lot of good suggestions and information for me to explore. Thanks again for the help!

      1. Hi charlie27. Sorry to hear about the JIA diagnosis. You are not alone here. Several of our contributors were diagnosed quite young - Kelly and Kat at 2 and Daniel at 8. I want to stress that, while all of them have their JIA/JRA troubles, they all lead full, interesting lives.

        The hands are certainly at the forefront of RA activity. I want to share with you this article from our contributor Wren on hand issues and things that have helped her manage:

        It is great that you are continuing your schooling. Our contributor Monica has recently gone back to college. She has written several articles on doing school with RA. This one is on accommodations: Similar accommodations may make school more manageable for you.

        Back to JIA. I want to share with you this article from Kelly (full disclosure - I'm her husband) on recent research finding that JIA is different from adult onset RA in many ways, including treatments that may help bring it under control: In the article she mentions only recently finding a treatment to bring her inflammation down into the normal range. The drug she is referring to is an interleuken-6 inhibitor. Recent research has found that the IL-6 molecule may be the primary driver in inflammation in JIA patients (for a brief abstract on some of this research see Your doctor should be able to provide additional information. Hope this information is helpful and know that this community is here for you. Best, Richard ( Team)

        1. Thank you, . I appreciate you sharing, and I really enjoyed the articles that you mentioned. There is a lot of good information out there and support from people who know and have similar experiences. It's very encouraging to know that I'm not alone in this.

      2. Hey !

        Thanks for reaching out. I also wanted to expand on Richard's comment about me going back to school.

        Personally, I have never had trouble with my jobs or getting hired. My employers were aware of my condition at time of hire and were willing to work to accommodate me.

        School-wise, I especially have difficulty with fine motor skills associated with the hands. I rely heavily on dictation software to minimize writing and typing. Just a little background, I am getting my pre-reqs for vet school and intend to apply to veterinary school. If you permit me the opportunity, I want to share two of my recent articles with you. In one, I talk about how I minimize pain in my hands: and in the second I share the tech assistive apps I use for school:

        That being said, when I was first diagnosed and finding the right treatment for me, I don't think I would have managed school and work together. Now, I have a really great medicine regime that helps manage my symptoms enough that I can enjoy school and personal life. Keep fighting, keep talking to your rheumatologist. The right mix of lifestyle and medicine is out there for you!

        Warmly, Monica ( team)

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