How to explain rheumatoid arthritis to those who don’t have it

23 February 2023

If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. In the U.S., 41 out of 100,000 people—or an estimated 1.3 million Americans—live with this unpredictable and sometimes debilitating condition. 

Sharing one’s RA experience is not pleasant or easy, especially for those who are young and not expected to have it. Pain from RA can be difficult for other people to comprehend, and it can also be hard to explain. 

Most people don’t know the lengths those with RA may go to in order to ease their pain—from mixing medications to doing exhaustive searches for possible effective alternative medicines. Some people with RA even face doubt about their pain from family and friends.

It is important to know how to explain RA effectively to those who don’t experience it. Through education, you can build a support system. People with RA need to cope with the disease.

Read on for more information you can share with your loved ones—facts, uncommon symptoms, complicated treatments, risks and a revolutionary testing system that can drastically improve your quality of life. 

Dispelling common RA myths

RA is an autoimmune disease that attacks the healthy cells surrounding your joints, causing painful swelling in affected parts of your body. RA usually attacks several joints at once. 

Early diagnosis is crucial for effective RA treatment, but some people don’t consult health professionals right away because of common misconceptions. Here are some of the common myths about this autoimmune disease.

  • RA is part of aging: False. RA disease may affect young adults, teens and even children.
  • It only affects the joints: False. If left untreated, RA may affect your heart, lungs, blood vessels and other body parts. 
  • Exercise is not ideal for RA: Incorrect. Research shows that aerobic and aquatic exercises reduce physical pain and improve bodily functions. 
  • The medication stops when the pain does: Also untrue. Pausing your medication may cause a resurgence of pain and lead to more damage. 
  • There is nothing you can do about RA: Wrong again! While there’s no cure for it yet, you can slow RA progression, reduce pain and improve your quality of life.  

RA symptoms vary

The most common RA symptoms include joint pain, swelling, and stiffness that occur in flares.  In severe cases, you might also experience deformities or loss of joint functions. However, the symptoms are not always joint-related.

One of the reasons why talking about RA with loved ones may be a difficult feat is that many pressing symptoms can be unrelated to joints. On some days, mental and physical fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, depression and memory problems may be more prevalent than joint pains. These indications may make explaining RA to family and friends more challenging than you’d expect. 

RA treatments can be complicated

Treatments for this disease will attempt to address symptoms and slow the condition’s progression, but not cure it. RA treatments may include:

  • Medications
  • Home remedies
  • Dietary changes
  • Specific exercises

Whatever your symptoms are, this is an example of a plan you should expect from your physician:

  • Set fixed treatment goals
  • Monitor your treatment and pain levels
  • Switch your regimen if you don’t feel any progress 

In the past, finding the right combination of treatments took months or even years. Your physician might prescribe disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) like methotrexate. You might also find yourself trying different medicine combinations, such as hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, minocycline and more. 

In the past, it was common for RA patients to endure several trial-and-error treatment plans because of the lack of information.  

The health risks of RA

RA has many potential health risks that can lower your quality of life, such as  disability and debilitating pain. Here are some common diseases associated with this RA:

  • Premature heart disease
  • Weakened immune system
  • Lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lymphoma
  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity

There are many other comorbidities associated with RA. The best way to minimize its risks is to detect the disease early and get proper medical care as soon as possible. RA has varying levels that need personalized treatment plans. Luckily, Vectra can help. 

The Vectra test for RA

Vectra can help show that the pain you feel is real. Vectra is a superior blood test system that measures the inflammation caused by RA, the effectiveness of your current treatment and the probability of future joint damage. Vectra can help you and your family understand how real your joint pain is. 

The Vectra score reveals the severity of the disease from a range of 1 to 100, with lower scores indicating less inflammation. Patients with low Vectra scores have decreased chances of future joint damage. On the other hand, patients with high to moderate Vectra scores have uncontrolled or poorly controlled inflammation and may require treatment modification. 

With Vectra on your side, you can create a customized treatment plan with your physician to address your symptoms, help minimize or prevent future damage and enhance your quality of life. 

Transform your life now

RA can be frightening to tackle on your own. With the help of your loved ones, physicians and Vectra, you can transform your life with education, information and a customized treatment plan. 

If you or a loved one suffer from this rare autoimmune disease, please keep in mind that it’s possible to address symptoms even if it does not have a cure yet. Get tested now to transform your life.