So, one thing I did not consider about the journey with RA, was the pain of the various tests we are subjected to. We all know about the pain of the disease itself but, we may not understand just how uncomfortable and painful the battery of tests we take may be.
Various tests for RA disease management
Let’s start with blood work. For many people, finding a viable vein can be next to impossible. That means pain, excessive bruising, and a prolonged time getting blood drawn. The search for a vein can be next to impossible, and because we need to have blood drawn so frequently, it is truly a hideous process for many RA patients.
One trick I was told about was to make sure to be well-hydrated to keep veins healthy and to immediately curl you arm up after it is drawn to prevent as much bruising as possible. This has helped me a lot. Now, if you are doing a fasting blood draw, that means you cannot be hydrated but many hospitals are now allowing folks to drink up until an hour before surgery which has helped with this issue a great deal!
How about Xrays? I am talking traditional ones here. They play a very crucial role in helping our care team determine the state of our joints, so I am not in any way opposed to them. Just the other day, I had to have hand and knee Xrays done and getting the positions necessary would have been funny if it was not so painful. I felt like a pretzel by the time I was done.
CAT scans and MRIs
CAT scans and MRIs are also challenging. Often you are placed on uncomfortable tables for a long period of time, depending on the test. For most of us with RA, having to stay in a stationary position for a long time is very painful. I am also claustrophobic, and so MRIs that have you locked in within an inch of the device induces a panic attack. Just writing about it makes my heart race!
I recently had a screening done that involved an abdominal ultrasound. I had no idea that the wand would be depressed so firmly that I would be in pain for the next two days. I think it actually triggered costochondritis as I am still recovering, several days later.
Mammograms and colonoscopies
Most RA folks have to have testing done a lot more frequently than the average person so, for instance, I have mammograms and colonoscopies done more often. Any woman who has had a mammogram knows the discomfort associated with it, although it is much less barbaric than it was 20 years ago. As for colonoscopies, well, let’s just say the prep is not for the faint-hearted.
The tests for RA disease management can be a difficult experience
I want to emphasize here that I am grateful that testing is done as an essential part of managing RA, but it is important to acknowledge that testing can be a difficult experience one that should be discussed and reviewed with your care team. Being sensitive to this issue is important and one that bears some attention as part of our journey with RA.
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