Four Freaky Things About Rheumatoid Arthritis
In honor of Halloween, I thought it would be appropriate to note some of the many freaky things we experience as people living with rheumatoid arthritis. Over the years I know I’d had many strange symptoms and medication side effects. Some are uncomfortable, others are just strange.
- Swelling – Since my RA affects every joint in my body, I pretty much feel swollen all the time. Still, sometimes are just worse than others. For me the worst swelling has occurred in my knees and hands. These are the places I feel it the most. For example, my hands can feel like they are encased in Jello, squishy and hard to bend or flex my fingers. I have a bunch of tools to help in gripping and opening containers, but sometimes I just need to ask for help. Just once I want to be the lady who helps the big, muscular man open a jar.
- Joint deformities – From my years of arthritis I have limited range of motion in all my joints. Some are pretty much locked in place so I’ve developed workarounds. But it can be frustrating to reach for something and realize I can’t span the distance because my arm is permanently bent. Personally, the most annoying joint deformity is the “swan’s necks” I have in some of my fingers. It doesn’t hurt, but as I look at my hands throughout the day I find myself willing the bones to push back in proper position—to no avail. Mastering the mind control might be freaky, but I promise to use the power for good and not evil (at least most of the time).
- Nodules – I had nodules on my hands on and off as a child. These funny little bumps irritated me and I remember trying to rub them away. As an adult I haven’t had a recurrence, but it is something I would not look forward to. I don’t remember them being painful, just annoying and yes, a little freaky.
- Autoimmune issues – Since I’ve been taking medications to suppress my RA, which deflates my immune system, it is often a struggle to stay healthy. I’ve often felt I get sick more than the average person. When I went on methotrexate a few years ago I really struggled, first coming down with several cold viruses, then a severe ear infection. My solution was to take a daily multivitamin and extra dose of vitamin C. Once I incorporated more immune boosting supplements, I stopped getting sick so frequently.
Sometimes I feel like Halloween is in my body all year, focusing on the tricks and not the treats. It can be a struggle to manage the effects of RA on the body, along with the side effects from medications.
I also sometimes wonder what other strange things could be connected to my RA and treatments. Doctors don’t often have answers when I ask these questions. For example, after going on methotrexate I noticed my skin became a lot more sensitive. I knew I would have to be more careful in the sun, so I’m diligent about my sunscreen and wearing a wide brimmed hat when I have a day outside, but my sensitivities go above and beyond. Just touching my face to itch my nose can inflame my skin and redden it for several minutes. I’ve learned that gentle washing and moisturizing helps to calm my skin. But my doctors couldn’t explain this change.
My feeling is that we patients are the best judge and must be observant about how we are feeling. My husband also helps me to see things in perspective—he can note when I’ve been feeling worse for a stretch of time, where I often just adapt and accept these changes.
I’ve learned I have to trust my senses and note the “freaky things” about RA so that I can monitor and manage my health. It also helps to keep my humor and be able to laugh at the freaky side of life.
What symptoms or changes surprised you about having RA?
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