Often, when I’m going about my day-to-day routine, I will look at something and make an analogy to my RA (rheumatoid arthritis) journey. These tangled ribbons made me think of the process of diagnosing RA. Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis is like methodically untangling a big heap of ribbons all meshed together!
I was profoundly fatigued and hurt a lot. My pain and stiffness would move around to different parts of my body, never symmetrical. For example, one knee would give out getting out of bed and I’d be unable to put any pressure on it, or I would fall, and it hurt like crazy. After 20 minutes, I could stand and walk. Strange. Then several months later, one shoulder would spontaneously hurt like crazy. It would then resolve after a few days. Strange. This is the abbreviated version of my story, but I know, you get it!
All of these symptoms were the reason to have blood tests to check for anemia and inflammation to help diagnose my condition. I had a few X-rays too. However, the tests all came back normal.
The morning both wrists hurt at the same time was the symptom needed to order an MRI. The MRI determined my diagnosis of inflammatory arthritis. It was four years later that erosions typical of rheumatoid arthritis and a high sensitivity test changed the diagnosis to rheumatoid arthritis.
Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis can be tricky. The symptoms mimic so many other conditions. We may have intense symptoms, and then they go away or subside for a while. We experience these intense symptoms, but by the time we see the doctor they have diminished or they are gone. Like the tangled ribbons, it often takes time to sort it all out. This “sorting out” time was when I introduced myself to the anti-inflammatory diet, the importance of a good mattress, and the need for properly supportive shoes.
The message I want to convey is that often the diagnosis is not instant pudding, the symptoms need to be “untangled”. The rest of the message is to start educating yourself on anything anti-inflammatory and implementing them into your lifestyle, even before a formal diagnosis. Diet, exercise, sleep, stress-reduction, are a few. I created the acronym FRESH to give me an easy to remember and easy to refer back to list of 5 lifestyle changes I made to help my body deal with the awful symptoms. This was something I could do while waiting for a diagnosis. I have continued refining the lifestyle changes since my RA diagnosis with great success. This is in addition to the pharmaceutics I use.
We are all unique, and rheumatoid arthritis expresses itself differently in each of us. I’m thankful for all the helpful information I’ve received from my autoimmune friends. I believe it has augmented my traditional healthcare to better manage my RA. And that is using Arthritis Wisdom!
I will never graduate from learning about my disease. I would love to hear from you, my RA friends, to learn more! Please leave a comment!