Lymph Nodes and RA - Time to Investigate?
About a month ago, I began to feel a slight tenderness in the lymph nodes under my jaw, just below my ears. It came just on the heels of some extreme dryness and itchiness of my eyes, so I assumed they were related. Pink eye, maybe? An ear infection? Dental issue?
Swollen lymp nodes: Sjogren's, RA, or something else?
I did some "research" and discovered that Sjogren’s often includes some lymph node discomfort. I use the word "research" in quotes because that largely consists of checking some trusted online sites. I quickly realized it could be anything from mono to lymphoma to pink eye.
Clinical signs of Sjogren's without confirming blood tests
Most interesting was finding that it sometimes is just yet another aspect of RA, which I did not know. All this did was heighten my stress and anxiety. I ended up discussing this with my rheumatologist via a telemedicine appointment. She prescribed some medication to increase saliva production and we hoped that would help. She suggested that I get the blood test for Sjogren’s the next time I came in for my Orencia infusion, which I did last week. It seems that although I have all of the clinical signs of Sjogren’s, I do not have the blood test confirmation.
Weighing the risk to see a doctor during COVID
So, now what? I continue to have the tenderness and the anxiety is getting more pronounced every day that goes by. I know that I should probably see my doctor in person to have a physical examination but, in this time of COVID, it is all about weighing the risks. So, my point in going through this process here was to lay out just how difficult and confusing it can be to manage our RA while trying to decide if what we are experiencing is unrelated to the disease itself.
In-person or telemedicine visit?
What are all of you doing in this time of uncertainty? It has always been a challenge trying to decide when to see the doctor for these types of issues. I think it is significantly magnified when we are told to stay home as much as possible given the risks to those of us with compromised immune systems. How to decide what needs more attention than a telemedicine visit is becoming my new challenge!
Anxiety and stress about my lymph nodes
I initially considered just riding it out which I think many of us do. But, given the times and the risk, I have decided to call for an appointment and go from there. I think continuing to worry and stress is likely as bad as the issue itself. That is a concept that I have begun to realize needs to be considered and reflected on. It has begun to interfere with my sleep and daily ability to focus and enjoy life...already a challenge given our self-isolating.
Scheduling an in-person visit
Weighing all of these considerations, I think I need to take the plunge and schedule an appointment for an in-person visit so the doctor can check this out. Weighing the risks of seeing our doctors for in-person appointments in this time of COVID may be one of the toughest decisions we have to make.
A more thorough exam may be needed
For me, first trying the telemedicine route made sense. Now, however, I need to have a more thorough exam, so that means heading to the office and getting the necessary tests and exams to diagnose the situation. In the end, I think getting the answers will be worth the risk for me.
What decisions have you had to weigh? Consider all the options and check in with your care team to help choose the best course. Take care and stay safe.
After the past 2+ years, how do you feel about telehealth appointments to manage your RA?