10 Things I Wish Others Knew About RA

In honor of Arthritis Awareness month, I’m sharing the 10 things I wish others knew about rheumatoid arthritis.

  1. RA is not the same as osteoarthritis.
    The thing I feel that people really don’t get is how much more aggressive RA is and the resulting damage and life impact. Osteoarthritis is typically much more gradual and is not an autoimmune disease like RA. I think of RA as more vicious because of the amount of joint destruction over a shorter period of time.
  2. Getting up every morning is hard.
    My husband reminds me that I do everything that others do, only it’s harder and takes more energy. Getting up every morning is difficult. My bones don’t want to move and I never feel fully rested. Yet, I do it. Sometimes I wish I was given a little more credit, just for getting up every day.
  3. It hurts every day.
    My RA pain never stops. It is worse on some days than others, but it is always there. I don’t want people to worry about it, but would love them to be more aware about the constant pain and discomfort related to RA, along with the resulting exhaustion.
  4. Exercising more won’t make my joints better.
    Exercise is not a cure for my RA joint problems. It can help with maintaining my joint function and managing pain, but more exercise will not fix my joints and too much could actually damage them. “Being more active” is just not a great recommendation for my ailing RA joints.
  5. There are no magic drugs that cure RA.
    Most people are pretty surprised at the limits of RA treatments. While they have improved in recent years and can be effective at stopping advance of the disease, they cannot reverse existing RA damage.
  6. Children and young people can have RA.
    I was diagnosed at age two and many people with RA are diagnosed as children, teens, or young adults. Basically, age is not relevant in that RA can strike at any time.
  7. Sometimes the toughest part is exhaustion/lack of energy.
    My biggest challenge is exhaustion and lack of energy. Sure, joint swelling, damage and pain are no fun and really difficult to manage. But when I have no energy, it really limits what I can do in a day. Exhaustion seems to follow me around no matter how much I fight it. It is a constant battle.
  8. The weather affects RA, but often unpredictably.
    People often jokingly ask if my body can tell the weather. It’s often true that I feel weather coming and going in my bones. But it doesn’t follow rhyme or reason. Sometimes I ache when it’s sunny, sometimes when a rainstorm is approaching. I know the barometer affects my RA, but have never been able to decipher a pattern.
  9. RA flares can strike suddenly and stop us in our tracks.
    Similar to the weather, flares can start and take hold with no warning. When I have a flare, I have to stop and spend all my energies working on recovery. I need rest, rest, and more rest. They are no joke and cannot be negotiated with. I struggle with explaining the seriousness of RA flares to others and wish they understood better how debilitating they are.
  10. Laughing, humor, and joy are the best medicine.
    Sure my treatment plan and medications are important, but the best medicine are the laughs and joy of every day life. I am lucky to having a loving husband, friends, and family that fill my life with fun and adventures.

What would you add? What would you like others to know and understand about rheumatoid arthritis?

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