You Know You Have RA When . . .

Last updated: March 2023

We know that the typical signs and symptoms associated with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) include joint stiffness and swelling as well as a number of positive laboratory test results. But there are also signs and symptoms that we experience every day that aren’t part of a doctor’s work-up.

We wanted to know more about everyday life with RA, so we asked our Facebook community to respond to the statement, “You know you have RA when ______.” Here’s what several of you had to say.

Potential signs of having RA

You feel older than you actually are

  • "You’re 53 and feel like 90."
  • "Being 31 and feeling like 80."
  • "When you can't keep up with the group and feel like you need a cane for stability, and you are only 48."
  • "Fatigue . . . pain . . . Most people don't understand it's not arthritis that grandma has."
  • "You feel older than you are."

Pain takes over your life

  • "When your joints hurt so bad you could cry and everyone wonders what's wrong with you – you look fine."
  • "You feel like your body is being ripped apart and your family thinks you're crazy."
  • "When everything hurts and you are limping and as you are walking into work someone says 'How are you?' And you say with a smile 'Fine . . . how are you?' . . . And smile and keep going."
  • "You can't do what you want to do from the pain and fatigue."
  • "Everything hurts all the time."
  • "You just can’t walk without being in excruciating pain, and that was just the first step."
  • "Your feet feel like the bones are crumbling. And you can't hold your head up due to neck pain. And your hand and feet are blown up."
  • "You can’t sleep due to pain, and you wake up stiff and in pain."
  • "My fingers swelled like sausages."
  • "Your joints are so painful, and you can't stand anything to touch them."
  • "When you have pain every part of your body, can't move off the bed, and nothing gets done."
  • "Can't move without being in excruciating pain."

Your body has mind of its own

  • "Your mind tells you what to do, but your body can't."
  • "It takes 20 minutes to get off the couch, and your 2-year-old tries to help."
  • "When you get out of bed in the morning and your knees and ankles refuse to bend."
  • "You feel like a puppet master's toy."
  • "When your leg feels broken."
  • "You go to lift something light, and your hand and wrist give out."
  • "Your toes and fingers all point the wrong direction."
  • "You want to cry from frustration that your body is doing this to itself."

Being exhausted is a way of life

  • "You feel like you are coming down with the flu – all the time."
  • "You feel tired – all the time."
  • "Getting washed and dressed for the day wears you out."
  • "You can sleep until 2 pm and still feel tired afterward."
  • "When you work in your house for one hour, and your body says and feels like it was a whole day."
  • "You feel like you've run a marathon."
  • "Even the thought of going on holiday wears you out."
  • "Being so tired 24/7. And every day is a surprise as to what will hurt."
  • "You wake up in the morning and are already for a nap!!! The constant fatigue is about the worst."
  • "When you can't get out of bed due to fatigue and exhaustion."

You feel like a meteorologist

  • "When you predict stormy weather by flares."
  • "Your joints become a weather barometer."
  • "When you can feel weather approach."

You start missing your independence

  • "When the old people in wheelchairs and walkers ask you if you need help."
  • "Buying a bottle of pop and have to ask a stranger to open it for you."
  • "You haven't had a date in 2 years, because you never leave your house."

Planning the day is a challenge

  • "You can never plan a whole day and actually be able to do everything on your list."
  • "You have to give yourself a shot and you dread it."
  • "You have to plan your day very carefully."
  • "You need about 3 hours in the morning to feel better."

No one seems to understand

  • "You tell someone what you have, and they say, 'I have that in my little finger,' and you're like, 'OK yeah right.'"
  • "Someone says, 'I have arthritis too' . . . not my kind of arthritis!!!!"
  • "You are 13 and all your friends are going to the pool, and you can't go because the cold water hurts too bad."

What is it about RA that defines the disease for you? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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