June 21, 2016 162
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
To understand what rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is all about, we decided to bring you snippets of an RA patient’s life this week and we thank Mrs S for sharing her journey with us. Mrs S has been suffering from this condition for almost 10 years now. She was first diagnosed when she was 35. It all started as a common joint pain in the hand and feet and as many of us would do, she brushed it off thinking that it was all after the running she had to do after her 3 year-old at that time. As she started experiencing other symptoms like fever, fatigue and frequent joint pain she decided to visit a doctor and soon after a few blood tests she was diagnosed to be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It was definitely not easy to digest the results as a young woman who was living a perfect life and just like that her happy bubble was popped with an inflammatory joint condition with no cure.
Rheumatoid arthritis has no known cause to date but it is believed to be due to autoimmune reaction, which means the body’s immune system attacking its own joints causing inflammation and joint damage. Well, basically that is like punching yourself with your own hands when you are drunk, except in this condition you know it is the booze working but in rheumatoid arthritis no one knows the reason for the immune system going haywire attacking the joints. Mrs S did reveal that her doctor told her, she having a family history of rheumatoid arthritis and her smoking habit could have increased her risk factors predisposing her to the condition.
As miserable as it was in the beginning for Mrs S to accept the diagnosis, she was convinced that the symptoms could be controlled with appropriate medications and lifestyle changes. She was prescribed with non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to help managing her joint inflammation as well as to reduce the abnormal immune function in her body.
She is also aware that there are newer biological agents available (bDMARDs) to stop the progression of the disease by targeting specific molecules of immune system that is causing the inflammation of joints. Apart from drug therapy, Mrs S has also stopped smoking, opted for physiotherapy and regularly exercises to maintain her muscle strength and joint flexibility. She said walking, cycling, Tai Chi and any low impact aerobic activities are beneficial. She always counsels with her physiotherapist before starting on a new exercise to make sure it suits her abilities. On top of that, the support group she has been a part of has aided her in sharing her concerns and gives her motivation to keep fighting. Even though there is no cure for this condition, Mrs S believes right management of the disease retards the progression and enables you to live a normal life.
Quoting Mrs S, “I have had ups and downs with this disease and when there are flare ups I can be in so much pain I could barely do anything. But I realize that there are so many people out there with worse conditions and still fighting. So, I try to be positive as much as I could and battle on because that is what life is about. Whatever happens, life goes on….”
So, do you have any relatives or friends who have been suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis? Share your experiences with us!
by Thanusha Ganesan
Final year pharmacy student. Highly curious and immensely enthusiastic. I strongly believe that to be happy is to indulge in the spirit of giving. View all articles by Thanusha Ganesan.