alt=hands press on painful spots on feet and toes.

The Symptom Match Game

Last updated: June 2022

Do you ever feel like trying to match your symptoms to causality and treatment is a game? Someone has taken the ordered deck of cards, shaken it, then played 52 card pick-up with all the pieces! As you attempt to match up the correct pairs, you realize that order may not happen. There is no winner. Medically, we know that some things just happen and there is no clear cause. Still, there is an overwhelming desire to make the match and resolve the issue.

New symptoms and viruses

Since January of 2021, I have had new symptoms that do not seem to have a place in my typical roulette wheel of rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, small airways disease, variant angina, and osteoarthritis. I often feel like I am spinning the wheel on Wheel of Fortune and Pat Sajak says, “Mary Sophia, you got an unknown disease!”.

Is this a symptom from COVID or RA?

Cursed with COVID-19 in January of 2021 and January of 2022 (despite vaccination and physical distancing), I now have additional conundrums. Is this long COVID, is my rheumatoid arthritis advancing, or is it something else? In the back of my brain, I can hear my nursing school professors saying, “Don’t look for zebras, look for horses.” Right, always look for the most common causes first. Then my rheumatoid arthritis brain kicks in and says, “don’t forget the unicorns!” Because there are frequently unicorns in our rheumatoid arthritis world, we tend to look for those first.

My latest symptom frustration: foot pain

Over the last year, my toes have really been painful. I had attributed it to my rheumatoid arthritis. My rheumatologist did x-rays which showed no new damage. What???? If you saw my toes, you would understand my confusion. With an adjustment to my rheumatoid medications, I expected to have improvement. However, my toes have continued to be very painful and impairing my ability to walk.

Looking for an explanation

I want to explain the background of why I did not look at my shoe size sooner. I am a tall female who has worn a long slim shoe since age 14. My size went up and out with my first child. Finding a size 13 women’s shoe is challenging, let alone finding one that is pretty and supportive. I have worn this size for 25 years.

One of my tall women's websites recently closed and had a clearance sale. The shoe I wanted was sold out of size 13, so I bought a 14. Over Palm Sunday weekend 2022, I took a long car trip. Everything swelled, especially my feet. On Palm Sunday, I wore my size 14 shoes. My toes were not in pain. They ached, but it was mild. It took another week before I was willing to accept that I need a size 14. I am donating a large portion of my “cute shoes” and have purchased new athletic shoes.

Sometimes, the answer we're looking for is simple

In this case, it was a horse. Always look for the most common answer first. Although I was sure this was a unicorn, it was a horse. A simple yet emotionally difficult cause.

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