Three globes with the landmasses represented by a hand. As the globes go from left to right the hand shape gets more and more disfigured.

The Global Truth

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease. Inflammation affects every part of the body. Every cell becomes inflamed. Have I used the word ‘inflammation’, or its variations, enough? I am just trying to make a point. Rheumatoid arthritis, while usually specifically targets the cartilage around the joints (hence the name, lol), is a global condition. It can (and does) affect everything.

Inflammation and comorbid conditions

Thus, it’s no secret that we suffer from comorbid conditions all brought on by...inflammation! And somehow, even though I know this simple fact, I am always surprised by it.

Sure, when my symptoms flare up I feel pain...everywhere. I feel fatigued right down to the bone, and I struggle to move from the top of my scalp to the very soles of my feet. But, I constantly marvel how affected I am by my body's inflammatory response.

RA inflammation impacts every part of the body

Inflammation really doesn't discriminate. I certainly have issues with my joints but I have a host of other symptoms that exist for no other reason than my rheumatoid arthritis.

My menstrual cycle is erratic, especially during flares. My muscles atrophy from “disuse” even though I am an active person. My hair is ever thinning (and it's not due to age, excuse me!). It even shows up in my blood! I don't clot as easily but when I am flared it shows up in my blood work.

I get nauseous and I lose my appetite. I feel so dry that when I drink water I can actually feel it being zapped from my body.

But, it’s not just symptoms. Yes, RA affects my body also affects my life, as well.

What am I capable of doing that day?

From the second I wake up in the morning (and probably a few minutes before then) my rheumatoid disease dictates everything. What am I capable of that day? Can I manage everything? Do I need help? I have to accommodate the elephant in the room, all. the. time.

RA dictates everything

It literally is another identity and a very bossy one, at that. He says, "I am in pain so you best move gingerly to protect your joints." She says, "I am going to attack everything so you best sleep it off." It says "Hey, I don't like your joints but sorry, I can't control what I hit so there might be collateral damage next door! Deal with it."

It’s frustrating!

How does RA fit into my life?

I often hear “you are not your disease” or “don’t let it consume you” or my personal favorite “it doesn’t control you, you control it”.

But none of those are true, are they? If RD controls my body then I am my disease, aren't I? I don’t mean I’m crumbling under the weight but that it exists, always.

Embracing the presence of RA

The truth is I need to embrace my RA with open arms and acknowledge its presence. In order to live my life, I have to recognize its global truth. My rheumatoid disease affects everything I do and, even though that sucks because I can’t do everything 150 percent, if I want to live my best life I have to manage my condition and everything that comes with it.

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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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