Skin Infections and RA: A Rather Gross Story
Last updated: July 2022
Many community advocates on our site have discussed a variety of complications that come from having RA. From heart problems to high cholesterol to random joints that swell out of nowhere, those of us with RA really have experienced the full array of undesirable symptoms.
However, I experienced one recently that I had never experienced before, at least in relation to RA - a skin infection on my chest that turned quite nasty. I want to share my story to help other community members.
I woke up to an unpleasant surprise
In May, I woke up in the morning and realized there was a bump on my chest in between my chest muscles. It wasn't too big. Honestly, it looked just like a pimple, so I ignored it for a few days until it continued growing and growing, amassing to the size of a goose egg under my skin. It was incredibly painful. Not only did it hurt without even touching it, but I also couldn't sleep on my side because my chest muscles were squeezing the infection.
The infection was confirmed by my doctor
Thankfully, I already had a doctor's appointment coming up, so I was able to get it checked out fairly quickly. My doctor confirmed that it was actually a cyst/carbuncle. A carbuncle is basically a pimple with multiple heads; however, the problem is that they are mostly caused by a Staph infection. Not the words you want to hear when you are already immunocompromised! Essentially, I was informed to keep hot compresses on it, and if it erupted, I would need to clean the area and put a bandaid over it to make sure that the infection didn't spread.
Easier said than done, since after a few days, my cyst/carbuncle did in fact erupt. I will spare the gruesome details, but it was rather disgusting. After erupting though, the swelling dramatically decreased, and I was able to sleep soundly again, which I found great relief in since I hadn’t been able to sleep well for over a week by this point.
A looming surgery
The only problem though, was that my doctor had mentioned that I would have to get the cyst/carbuncle removed, even if it wasn’t actively swollen. Apparently, when you have one of these infections, there is a sack/inner wall that does not go away—it essentially remains, just waiting for the next infection to strike, causing the bump to swell again. This means I have to go to the dermatologist to have surgery and stitches, something I’m not looking forward to at all.
RA doesn't just impact our joints!
What this experience has made me realize is that RA has the ability and power to impact my entire life, my entire being. It’s not something that just affects my joints; it affects my ability to function. The RA does weaken my immune system, but so do the drugs that I take to keep my RA under control. It also made me realize how reliant I am on my healthcare team and how much something that might be mundane or ordinary for someone else could be detrimental to me and my experience.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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