RA… Where do I go from here?
I am a male age 56 with no previous knowledge of RA or any indication of it in my family history. About a year ago, I started to experience pain in my hands especially at night. At it’s worse, I could not even move my pillow. Was it Parkinson’s that my father passed away from? MS? It was June of last year.
At first, I kept it to myself until I finally told my wife. From all indications and reading, we surmised it may be carpal tunnel. I met with my PCP who did a basic exam and agreed with our diagnosis. I was given the wrist guards to wear at night. For a while, I thought they were helping however over time it continued to get worse.
About 3 months since I started experiencing hand pains, my wife and I relocated for work moved to a three -bedroom apartment in a different state. Each day, I needed to take our dog up and down three flights of stairs whenever she needed to do her “business”. I started getting pain in both my feet. I convinced myself it was simply me getting older and all the stairs I was now doing for additional exercise. I bought new shoes convinced they were the problem as well. In a short time later I also started to notice both knees were also getting sore at night.
After the 7th month, I went to an orthopedic surgeon to address my carpal tunnel pains. I had electrical tests performed to confirm Carpal Tunnel was blocking the electrical pulses into my fingers. Tests on both hands came back as inconclusive. At the same time, the pain in my feet and knees continued at night. I stopped all exercising at this point in time.
After another month with my hands getting very bad both day and night, the Orthopedic Surgeon decided to do the Carpal Tunnel surgery on one hand convinced it was the source of my pain. Surgery went very smoothly.
After a week, I remember telling the doctor that the surgery helped remove all my aches and pains. My excitement however was just a mask provided by the medications I was taking to stop the surgery swelling and pain. After the second week, the pain in my both hands returned.
At this time, it was about 10 months from when my first hand pains started. Within 2 weeks I now had extreme pain in my elbows and shoulders at night. I knew something was wrong. I could barely walk or move at night. I woke up every time I tried to move. I found a new PCP in my new location who prescribed a series of tests which confirmed the RA diagnosis. He immediately got me in touch with a Rheumatoid Arthritis specialist who confirmed I had severe RA which had progressed to all my joints. My first RA score was 50 with inflammation results extremely high. I am now on Methotrexate and Enbrel.
As someone new to RA everything is a new experience. For me, Methotrexate was not enough however when added to Enbrel, I have seen remarkable reduction in my pain in a very short period of time. It is all new to me and honestly, I am not sure what the future holds. Luckily, numerous x-rays have confirmed I do not have any bone deterioration. A very good thing according to my RA specialist.
I thought I would share my experience for those like me who are new to RA and later in life (56 is still young to me). I tell everyone who asks that all along I had excuses for what was happening to me. I feel I may have even convinced my doctors what was causing the pain. It all seemed logical…. getting older, walking many flights of stairs, fishing, bad shoes, sports at a younger age… I had myself convinced. The one fact that I point out was that every pain occurred bi-laterally… both hand, both feet, both elbows, both shoulders…. I tell my family members and others that that was the key sign for me that something else was wrong. A sign I missed
Where do I go from here? I do not know. I do know I plan on a long and happy life. Thank God for the medications available today. What scares me the most is the uncertainty of what is happening to my immune system. Everyone now warns me about infections, illness, germs… you name it. Even this is still hard for me to believe because I historically rarely get sick. Perhaps a cold every few years. It is all new to me and where it goes from here …….