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Do I have RA or fibromyalgia?

I was diagnosed with RA 7years ago. I have seen two other doctors during that time but mostly the original doctor. Lots of meds, lots of flares, lots of surgeries. I look normal. We moved and I needed a new RA Dr. New Dr. takes X-Rays, blood tests and exam all in his offices. The result is that I don't have RA but I have Fibromyalgia. He also said that if he were taking the pain meds that I have been prescribed by my regular Dr. that he would be asleep all the time. He stated that he couldn't find any inflammation and if I wanted to see real RA to stay with him for a day and he would show me. I am 73 and try to stay active after five back surgeries, trigger finger and two new hips in a year. I know that when I am under control I appear normal except for the pain. My friends, I am at a loss. I am thinking of going off all my RA medicine's and see what happens. I have been off them before for short periods in preparation for surgery but never for a long time. This is a new one on me. Has anyone gone down this path? northlake

  1. Hello northlake,
    Oh my goodness, you must be so confused. I would think, if you have been on medication and your RA has been mostly under control, your new doctor probably wouldn't find too much evidence of inflammation. Did you have your records from your original doctor sent to the new doctor's office? There should be plenty of documentation there of your RA, especially if you have been on any sort of biologic. Most insurance companies require plenty of documentation before they will approve a biologic, so clear evidence of your RA should be in your file. I would certainly feel hesitant to accept a fibromyalgia diagnosis. While I can't say that I have had your particular experience, I will say that I had my first doctor claim that I had fibro and I am very glad that I took the time to get another opinion.
    As far as the comments about pain meds, given the current culture and abuse of pain meds, I'm sure that many doctors are feeling the pressure to not prescribe them for their patients. In my opinion (and just as a reminder, I'm not a doctor) I would make sure that I felt comfortable discussing my pain level with my doctor. Given your number of surgeries, it would seem that some pain medication would be normal.
    Fibromyalgia and RA are often linked, but they definitely have distinct characteristics that make each one clearly different. Here is an article that I found that might help you understand the relationship between the two.
    In a nutshell, I know getting in with a good rheumy can be a challenge, especially getting into one in a timely manner, however I would certainly get another opinion before agreeing to stop medication. I hope you are able to get some clear answers soon and wish you the best.
    -Leanne, Community Moderator

    1. Thank You so much for your kind thoughts.
      I did have my records sent to the new Dr. and he,asked me why I had chosen her in the first place, which I thought was strange. Also, during those seven years I have been on four different biologics. I didn't ask this Dr for any meds. I go through a pain center to deal with the pain.
      I thank you for your positive recommendations. I am in a rural area and hope to see how this turns out, but am looking for another Dr.
      One of the decisions that I am dealing with is whether to call my old Dr and talk this out with her. What the new Dr said in so many words is that her diagnosis was wrong!
      This sort of drama is harder sometimes than the health problem.
      Again, Thank you. Northlake

  2. Hi Northlake.
    I deeply feel your frustration. I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel and was given an MRI which diagnosed me having R/A by an orthopedic doctor. He couldn't do anything until my r/a was under control. I also live in a rural area. My PCP referred me to a R/A clinic 736 round trip miles from my home. Third visit I was late 15 min they told me to make appt for the following week. IT TOOK 8 MONTHS AFTER NEING DIAGONISED TO GET THE FIRST APPT. I went back to my PCP she referred me to someone only 200 miles away. They contacted me in the 7th month. I cancelled because I found thru word of mouth there was a R/A doctor who comes 1 time a month to a Orthopedic Clinic only 45 miles in another town. Ive seen the new R/A only once. Its going on 3 years. Do not be discouraged I no you are in pain as well as myself. And I no what its like to live in a rural area where we have no choices of Specialists. I leave messages on my PCP voice mail all the time if I get confused over lab tests, medications, and what the R/A doctor advises. Do not stop taking your R/A medications. You need to contact your old doctor tell her what is going on and tell her to contact your new R/A doctor. If she doesn't help you then call your insurance company and talk to a case management person or customer service person get them involved. Or find a new PCP one who sees you for high blood pressure, flu shots, etc. My PCP was grateful because she did even no there was a R/A available only 45 minutes away. The insurance company didnt no either. I have been telling everybody I no. Also I take 5mg of predisone for my pain it stops the inflammation for the carpal tunnel, and I am able to get out of bed. I have carpal tunnel, bone chips in my feet and fingers, recently diagnosed with osteoporosis, calluses on the bottom of my feet can hardly walk. but I get up every day and do what I can do. I feel blessed that I only have a few deformations because I have seen other people with worse. I do not rate my pain on a scale of 1 to ten. This is what I ell my doctor I am 63 years old if I'm am crying then you know I am in pain and at 63 I should not be feeling any pain at all. And so far they all agree.

    1. Thank you for your positivity and suggestions. I truly appreciate everything you gave me. I hope that the journey you are on is easy on you and that you can keep joy in your life. Respectfully, northlake

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