EDITORIAL BOARDNeil Betteridge
Joint stiffness, pain and fatigue are the most common symptoms faced by people living with RA.1 Yet this disease is often unpredictable, symptoms can come and go, differing for each person. Some people experience long periods of disease inactivity, while others have symptoms for months at a time.2 These fluctuations can often lead to feelings of distress, lack of control, isolation and limits people’s ambitions’.3 However, RA is not a battle anyone has to face alone. There is a network of patients, rheumatologists, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who can assist you through your RA journey.
Joining a support group is a good place to start. A support group has multiple benefits, such as providing valuable information on RA, strategies to cope and information regarding treatments. Above all, being part of a group provides support from people who are following the same path as you. People who will understand when you are going through a difficult time, feeling low or someone who can relate to your story, offering empathy, not sympathy.
From my experience, having an open and honest relationship with your doctor is also essential in helping to better manage your RA. Fundamentally, your doctor needs to fully understand your symptoms, the severity of your RA and the impact it has on your everyday activities.
Doctors appreciate that there is still more to be done to manage all aspects of RA but, building an individual picture of your health can help him or her to find solutions which best suit your condition. One method of tackling this that I have found to be effective is to write down myexperiences–listing all of my symptoms, my RA history and medications.
I have found it beneficial to communicate how my RA symptoms are directly affecting my day-to-day life; to discuss my feelings and fears, if applicable. Above all, I try to be specific. For example, if I experience pain, I say how bad it is and point to the affected area or show any movement that causes discomfort. I also try to detail any symptoms that have changed since my last appointment.
Try to be proactive, discuss your personal treatment goals, management options and the activities you might hope to resume post treatment.
Remember, rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t have to stop you living your life or making new plans. Although its symptoms can be painful and frustrating, drawing on the support around you can help take back control of your life and succeed.
References : 1. Arthritis Society. Rheumatoid arthritis. Accessed May 3, 2018 at: https://www.arthritis.ca/about-arthritis/arthritis-types-(a-z)/types/rheumatoid-arthritis 2. Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network. Let’s dig into everything about RA. Accessed May 3, 2018 at: https://www.rheumatoidarthritis.org/ra/accessed 3. Ryan S. Psychological effects of living with rheumatoid arthritis. Nursing Standard 2014;29(13):52-59.