I recently got diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and while it was a shock; I was thankful to put a name to my pain and discomfort. However, I am only 43 and the word Arthritis seemed strange to be happening to someone of my age.
So what does it mean?
Lets first go over the basic medical information and terms you will need to have a greater understanding of this disease. Follow is information I obtained from Arthritis Queensland.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a condition where your immune system mistakenly targets and attacks your own body (commonly known as an autoimmune condition). In RA, the immune system commonly targets the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and joint damage.
Symptoms can include painful, swollen, stiff, warm, and tender joints. People with RA often notice changes in symptoms over time, with ‘flare-ups’ followed by periods of decreased inflammation.
Because RA is a systemic disease, or a disease that targets your whole body, many of your joints and other organs can be affected.
What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?
More research is being done to understand the causes of RA. The following factors may increase your risk of developing RA.
- Having an infection. There is some evidence to suggest that RA can be triggered by some infections and viruses. However, you cannot ‘catch’ RA from another person
- Gender – females are more likely to have RA
- RA is more common in people with a family history.
Types of Rheumatoid Arthritis*
Rheumatoid arthritis patients who are classified as seropositive have the presence of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides (anti-CCPs) in their blood test results. These are also referred to as anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs). These are the antibodies that attack the body and produce the symptoms of RA.
Between 60 and 80 % of rheumatoid arthritis patients test positive for the presence of anti-CCPs, meaning it is a reliable indicator for diagnosis. The presence of these antibodies can be detected as early as 5 to 10 years before clinical rheumatoid arthritis symptoms appear.
Seronegative (This is my diagnosis)
It’s still possible for patients to develop rheumatoid arthritis without the presence of antibodies in their blood. This is referred to as seronegative type rheumatoid arthritis. Seronegative patients are those who do not test positive for the anti-CCPs or another antibody called rheumatoid factor.
Though seronegative patients lack the antibodies that help doctors diagnose the condition, they can still be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in a number of ways. These include the demonstration of clinical rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, as well as X-ray results indicating patterns of cartilage and bone deterioration.
Though it’s possible for seronegative patients to have milder rheumatoid arthritis symptoms than seropositive patients, this isn’t always the case. It can still depend on a number of factors, including genetics and other underlying conditions as well.
Unfortunately, many seronegative patients may not respond to typical rheumatoid arthritis treatments. This provides further motivation for researchers to identify rheumatoid arthritis sub-types in order to provide treatment for those who don’t have any long-term solutions as of now.
(*This information has been taken from RheumatoidArthritis.org)
What can I do to manage my RA?
Firstly, make sure you have an accurate diagnosis. It is best to visit your general practitioner (GP) first, to get appropriate tests and to come up with a treatment plan. If your doctor suspects that you have RA, you will be urgently referred to a rheumatologist (arthritis specialist) for treatment and advice.
The best approach to treatment is a team approach.
You are the most important member of your healthcare team. Your team may also involve:
- Your GP
- Specialists (such as rheumatologists and orthopaedic specialists)
- Allied health professionals (such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists)
- Community organisations that may assist you physically or mentally
- Your friends and family who support you.
The internet can be very overwhelming while learning about your condition, and as such I recommend only following nationally recogonised websites. While Google can help with specific questions, it can also make you worry more then necessary or give misinformation. Remember, everyone is different and everyone needs to find their own path.
Sites I like to visit are :
Instagram Pages I follow :