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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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • tckrd
    5 months ago

    I want others to know how unrelenting the pain can be. There some months when I only get a few days of relief after an infusion. The pain can be so intense that your mind won’t allow you to go on to something else.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    5 months ago

    This is so true, @tckrd! I wish I knew how and when the symptoms would affect me but as it is, it’s a surprise every day!

    And, there is no way of telling how bad the pain will be. Like you said, it could be so bad we can’t focus on anything else!

    Best, Monica

  • Kathy P.
    3 years ago

    The ball of my left foot (metacarpal joints) is always swollen, sometimes more so than others. My toes don’t touch the floor on that side unless I’m pushing off. Well, when that starts swelling, a couple of stiff toes, bone spurs and an immobile ankle on the other side, become my tripod days. That’s when I haul out the cane to provide additional stability so I don’t embarrass myself by losing my footing and falling down.

    So yes, other RA patients experience similar problems when there is lower limb involvement. You want to prevent additional injury, so talk to a rheumy doc or an occupational therapist about splints and assistive devices. You’ll learn to adapt as you go along.

    Good luck and I hope you’ll be able to get your RA under control and be feeling better soon.

  • Jillian S moderator
    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight with us. It seems like you are quite knowledgeable about what is going on in your body! But I think my favorite part about your post is when you whip out the “tripod” line. That is pretty funny 🙂
    I am glad to hear that you have learned to adapt to your needs by utilizing a cane. If you’d like, feel free to share more about your experiences with assistive devices in the comments section of this article:
    I think that other members in our community will really appreciate your insight whether they are considering using an assistive device or perhaps use one already. Unfortunately, assistive devices tend to carry a negative stigma and your perspective on them is fresh and optimistic.
    We hope to hear back from you soon.
    Thanks for being part of this community
    ~Jillian ( Team)

  • jomcnulty
    3 years ago

    It’s so good to have this dialogue with RA peers. I have a question on a new awareness and wonder if anyone else experiences this too? Lately, I’ve become aware of foot problems, along with chronic bilateral ankle pain, I’m now having heel pain, as well as the feeling of walking on pebbles or stones, giving me a feeling of an imbalance. Is this common to Ra pts?

  • tckrd
    5 months ago

    I have the same heel and foot pain . I also have another autoimmune disease besides RA. I have ankylosing spondylitus that is what my rheumatologist attributes the heel and feeling of walking in pebbles and stones.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi! Thanks for your comment. I can relate to have a lot of foot and ankle challenges, including ankle pain. I also have balance problems that I experience pretty much on any surface, though have more trouble with uneven surfaces like stones/pebbles. You may want to check out other articles we have on feet and ankles, such as: Hope this helps! Best, Kelly

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