Disoriented person laying on ground as if they they just lost their balance

Clumsy Is As Clumsy Does!

I have always been clumsy, and I have the scars to prove it! I learned a long time ago that I could either laugh about it or cry about it. Most of the time, I laugh! Who else has torn their knee meniscus running down a hall? Anyone broken a toe running up two stairs? How about a face plant falling off of a sidewalk?? Turned an ankle rolling off your shoes?

Yes, all of these have happened to me and more. I’m very thankful that my parents did not name me Grace!

Rheumatoid arthritis and balance

A not-so-hidden side effect of RA/RD is balance issues. Before I was diagnosed with RA, I noticed an increase in my balance issues. Several years after diagnosis, I spoke with my rheumatologist about this. I learned that balance problems are common with RA patients. So I started paying attention to when the balance problems started and how I felt disease-wise at that time. Surprise, surprise, balance was worse when I was in a flare.

Sometimes, a shift in balance is my first indication that a flare is imminent. Last weekend, I woke up and could barely make it to the door to let my dogs out. My son even noticed my balance issues. I spent the weekend in my jammies and either in bed or on the couch. After two full days of sleep and rest, the balance improved as did my RA symptoms.

Listen to your body

We get so tired of having to listen to our bodies. However, it’s critically important that we do. Our doctors need to know about balance issues to determine if a referral is necessary. Sometimes, we require an assessment by a neurologist. Other times, we require better, more supportive shoes.

Having grown up in the south, I went barefoot from April through mid-October. Now, I find that it hurts to be barefoot. And I fall more if I am barefoot. What’s a girl to do? After much looking, I have found cute, supportive sandals and slides that I can wear (Alegria and Vionic are my favorite brands). I also try to take my time and be more aware of my surroundings.

Hearing and vision affects balance too

Did you know that hearing and vision can affect your balance as well? Annual eye and hearing exams are recommended for RA/RD patients. Because of early ear trauma, I am now wearing hearing aids. I am only 57 and feel I’m too young for this!

However, I did not realize how much I wasn’t hearing. Hearing better has made me more aware of where I am in space. I’m not bumping into walls as much. Vision is also very important. If I don’t have my contacts in or my glasses on, I run into everything!

With a few modifications and aids, we can make a difference in our balance despite RA/RD.

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