RA, it's Not Just Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is not what people assume it to be. It's not your grandmothers arthritis (osteoarthritis-OA) which is caused by old age and wear and tear of the joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a serious autoimmune disease that deteriorates peoples bodies and does not discriminate age. I heard rheumatoid arthritis described as feeling as if you just ran a marathon, with a fever, with little knives stuck in your joints wrapped with braces and not knowing where you're at-oh and you have to relive this scenario nearly every day. 

Finding out that three young women in the RA community have passed away recently due to RA related issues is terrify. Not only for my health, but for the health of my friends and others who battle an autoimmune disease. RA does not only attack a persons joints, but they also attack organs, tissue, muscles and can cause massive life threatening problems.

It's upsetting to know that people think Rheumatoid Arthritis is 'just' arthritis. For this reason alone is why I decided to make my disease public. It isn't easy showing my weak moments on social media; however, people need to know about chronic diseases that don't get the publicity that other diseases do.

I find myself constantly trying to prove to people that I'm really sick and there is no cure for my disease. This disease is like a marriage I want to get out of, but I vowed to stay until death do us part.

I question the medical community; how are they helping with giving information to their patients and caregivers? How are they with personal patient care? With outreach? And what about bringing awareness to the rest of the medical community about Rheumatoid Arthritis/other autoimmune disease? When are we going to find a cure or at least medication that can prevent a lot of damage?

Here are some statistics that prove the severity of this disease and that Rheumatoid Arthritis is not 'just' arthritis.

(1)Is RA Life Threatening? Yes...

  • increased likelihood of dying from heart disease or stroke
  • suppressed immune system, which may not protect against infection
  • anxiety and depression, which lead to decreased mental and physical activity
  • increased chance of cancer

The complications of RA and some medications that treat it, called co-morbidities, may be life threatening. They include:

(2)IX. Co-morbidities Cardiovascular disease (CVD), in partcular ischemic heart disease, is more common among people with RA (34). It is unclear whether the risk of CVD precedes the disease onset or results from the condition; a Rochester Epidemiology Project study found that people with RA were more likely to have a hospitalizations because of myocardial infarction prior to diagnosis (34). However, two longitudinal cohort studies have found no difference in presence of MI, congestive heart failure or angina prior to diagnosis of RA (34). People with RA have greater evidence of subclinical atherosclerotic disease (36), and risk of silent MI (37). It is unknown whether the increase in CVD mortality is due to the disease, the risk factor profile of people with RA (e.g., presence of hypertension, more likely to be smokers), or the effects of the drugs used to treat the condition (36, 38).

Infections, most commonly tuberculosis, are another important and primary cause of death among people with RA may be responsible for one-quarter of deaths among people with RA (37). It is unclear whether this increased susceptibility arising from immunosuppression is due to the intrinsic immune dysfunction in people with RA, the effects of the drugs used to treat it, or both (36, 38). 

Mental health conditions: The high prevalence of anxiety and depression has been documented in several clinical populations of people with RA. Both conditions are associated with increased disease activity and decreased physical function and adherence to medical and non-medical interventions (39-42).

Malignancies: An increased incidence of lymphoproliferative malignancies (such as leukemia and multiple myeloma) has also been reported among people with RA. The cause of this increase is unknown (38).

So the next time someone tells you rheumatoid arthritis is 'just' arthritis, feel free to share with them some information and hopefully they will have a better understanding of what you go through each day. 

What other challenges do you deal with Rheumatoid Arthritis that proves it's not 'just' arthritis?

(1) http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/rheumatoid-arthritis-statistics#6

(2) http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/rheumatoid.htm

Aimee Matsumoto