A person is pinching their midsection. In their stomach area is a variety of stretch marks on their skin.

Stretch Marks with RA?! What?!

Something I've never thought could possibly be related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?? Stretch marks. I've had this recent cropping-up of stretch marks on my stomach and across my legs.

I'm currently tapering off an SSRI for that very reason, but it's making me wonder if there isn't something else going on because I've been having a few other symptoms, too.

Stretch marks and other new symptoms

Some of my new symptoms include fatigue (well, that one is not really new when you have RA), weakness (which is new for me), muscle cramps, dry mouth, dry lips, dry eyes, and unexplained weight gain (most likely the cause of all these stretch marks).

After talking with my doctor (and yes, maybe doing some sleuthing on WebMD), it looks like a lot of these symptoms are signs of a thyroid problem — either Hashimoto's, hypothyroidism, or a combination of the two. My inclination is something more autoimmune, since having one autoimmune condition makes you more likely/more susceptible to developing another condition.

Testing my TSH levels

Having dry eyes and a dry mouth is something that I'm relatively used to. I recently had a blood test to test for Sjorgen's syndrome (for these symptoms) that ultimately came back negative, but I still experience it every day. It's annoying for sure, but it would be interesting to know if there was something else causing these symptoms.

I also had my TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) tested (though this was in 2019) and it came back normal, but still. There are times where you know something is wrong with your body, and this is one of those times for me. It's the same feeling that I had right before I was diagnosed with RA. And I'm scared to have that feeling again.

These stretch marks are annoying

None of these symptoms are quite as annoying as the stretch marks, particularly as summer starts to get closer. I hate having these visible scars (literally) that mark my body. Yet, I've been trying to find a way to reframe the stretch marks that adorn my body — reframing them in a way that demonstrates all of the things that I've been through.

Because even though the stretch marks might not be directly related to having RA, they are at least tangentially related to having RA since having RA makes you more likely to have an autoimmune condition and since RA has metaphorically scarred my existence. It's made my life more difficult, and I am not thankful to have this body and this disease coursing through my veins.

Another reminder about RA

In fact, I hate RA. I hate that I have to feel these feelings of having a chronic illness at 24, a time when most of my peers are fully living their lives and enjoying themselves.

I know that I am incredibly fortunate in some ways, but I still have to live a chronic illness. I still have to live a life where this is an existence, a reality for me. And I don't want it to be a reality for me anymore, but alas—here we are.

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