RA or not RA?

One of my favorite summer shows is about a concierge doctor in the Hamptons, New York. In one episode, a patient spends his entire adult life with a MS diagnosis, he even starts a foundation with the tagline “you are not your disease.” He meets the main character who notices some red-flags, runs new blood tests and finds out that in fact, this man does not have MS but Lyme disease…

Lack of supportive bloodwork for RA

I have sero-negative Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have the clinical symptoms of RA (swelling, joint pain, stiffness, and others) without the blood work to support them. I have beautiful blood. It is generally hearty and vibrant with the exception of some fluctuating white blood cells. I drink loads of water before every draw so I may not know my true sanguine nature. I do however want to feel better about getting stuck with needles so I do compliment my hemoglobin!

I’m not sure exactly how I feel about healthy blood work. Every time I go to a doctor they check my blood and discuss my diagnosis. They ask me how I’m feeling, what symptoms I have and through a process of elimination always come back to RA. There are a lot of unanswerable questions like:

“Do I have RA???”

I am exposed to animals so I am consistently tested for Lyme and other titers, all of which come back negative. We discuss different autoimmune conditions as symptoms arise and always cycle back. Why?

I wish I could tell you.

I don’t experience too much swelling, even during bad flares. I don’t have any joint deterioration (yet, at least). I don’t even get fevers often – the telltale sign of an active immune system- or “normie” sick.

Doesn’t sound right, does it?

Here’s what does. I have joint pain; stiffness and my darling hinges lock up towards the end of the day. I do get some noticeable inflammation in my fingers and toes and I respond to medication. Sure, I am on some blanket autoimmune ones like Methotrexate, Prednisone and Tramadol but I do well with specific biologics like Orencia. I feel like this class of medication wouldn’t be effective if I didn’t have RA, right? Possibly but, a lot of these biologics are effective in treating multiple diseases.

I often wonder, why RA? What specifically about my condition screams RA? Is it the namesake joint pain because I certainly don’t have the inflammation to back it? Is it all in my head? I firmly don’t believe this but this doubt presents occasionally.

Whenever I go to a new doctor we list my symptoms. They look at their computer, eyebrows raised, and challenge the current diagnosis. Is it Fibromyalgia? Is it an odd inflammatory condition? I understand the skepticism. I look perfectly well, I pass all my tests but I feel horrible. This is probably a good time to interject I have never been accused of “faking it”. A fact I really appreciate but it is frustrating to sometimes wonder at my diagnosis.

I do have an RA diagnosis

I have RA. I have had diagnosed Rheumatoid Disease for eight years. I did not disclose it at first but eventually incorporated it into my online persona. I became comfortable with it. Everything I do with my hobbies keeps this disease in mind. I feel like I have it, but what if I don’t? I don’t dispute I have an autoimmune condition. They all present pretty similarly. Who am I if I don’t have RA?

Do you have sero-negative RD? What are your insecurities? Let me know in the comments!!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net 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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