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How to Tell Your Loved Ones About Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis

CreakyJoints discusses how to tell a loved one about a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) diagnosis and includes guidance from Dee Dee Wu, MD, rheumatologist at HSS.

According to Dr. Wu, “RA is an autoimmune disease. That means the immune system, which under normal circumstances protects you from infection, mistakenly sees one’s healthy tissue as foreign and attacks it. With RA, the target is the joint lining, or synovium, which results in joint inflammation or synovitis. Signs of inflammation include pain, swelling, redness, and warmth.”

She added, “RA accounts for a significant portion of the autoimmune diseases that we see in rheumatology practices.”

Loved ones may not always understand that symptoms of RA can change throughout the day. Dr. Wu explained, “Symptoms are typically worse in the morning and people with inadequately controlled disease will experience prolonged morning stiffness that improves over the course of the day as you use the joints.”

Dr. Wu said, “RA runs the whole spectrum, from mild to severe disease. She noted, “RA can oftentimes affect handgrip strength and dexterity because the hands and wrists are frequently involved.” 

She continued, “The frequent hand and wrist involvement in RA means that patients often struggle with activities of daily living. “Tasks like opening jars, turning doorknobs, turning a faucet, gripping and grasping become harder. RA also affects the fine motor skills of the hands, so patients may have difficulty unfastening buttons or fastening jewelry.”

“Poorly controlled disease can result not only in chronic joint pain and disability, but may also be associated with constitutional symptoms fatigue, malaise, loss of appetite, and weight loss, which can affect intimacy,” cited Dr. Wu.

Dr. Wu said, “Ultimately, RA might not be curable, but it is treatable, and the goal is always remission,” and noted there are many effective treatment options. “Biologics have revolutionized our ability to treat RA patients, and the treatment paradigm has shifted over the years so that we now treat patients early and aggressively when clinically warranted,” she added. 

Read the full article at Creakyjoints.org.