Facts, Just the Facts Please.
Installment #2. My goal is to inspire and inform, concerning this disease. Education is the way my wife Susan has made positive changes in her efforts to overcome. Thank You for following this series. DMK
From the article: Rheumatoid Arthritis Myths Debunked
Written By Eric Metcalf
Popular myths about rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can keep you from activities that could actually make you feel better, as well as cause you to make lifestyle changes that will have no real affect on your condition. Here are the most common myths about RA and the truth behind each one.
Myth No. 1: Rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone the same way.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 100 different kinds of arthritis and associated conditions affect about 46 million Americans. Although arthritis primarily affects the joints, it can also damage many other parts of the body. Even people with the same type of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can experience vastly different symptoms.
Myth No. 2: Only old people get rheumatoid arthritis.
It's true that one of the most common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis, is more likely to happen when you're older. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in middle age, but young adults and even children can get it, too.
Myth No. 3: If you don't look "sick," you don't really have rheumatoid arthritis.
Some people with rheumatoid arthritis don't have severely damaged, misshapen joints, notes Larry Moreland, MD, chief of the division of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. As a result, their family and friends may not understand the severity of their illness. Even when people do not have outward rheumatoid arthritis signs, they can still suffer symptoms, like joint pain, fatigue, and a general sense of simply feeling unwell.*
Myth No. 4: Rheumatoid arthritis is a normal part of aging.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease, not a normal aspect of getting older. Although a lot of people have it — about 1.3 million Americans — the majority of people don't have it.
Myth No. 5: Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms aren't treatable.
Many treatments have been developed over the years to help control the pain and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Nowadays, doctors can also do more than simply address the symptoms after they begin; there are medications to help put the condition into remission, to prevent or slow further joint damage.
Myth No. 6: Rheumatoid arthritis quickly leads to disability.
"Many patients with early rheumatoid arthritis are scared to death they're going to be crippled soon. What they don't understand is that there's a spectrum of mild to severe cases," says Dr. Moreland. Even if you develop a more serious case of rheumatoid arthritis, new drugs are available that can halt the progress of the underlying disease. Becoming disabled is not an absolute certainty.
Myth No. 7: If you have arthritis, you shouldn't do physical activities.
Although rest is important when you have rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups, it's also important to get exercise at times when you're feeling well, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Exercise helps keep your muscles strong and your joints flexible, and it can also help reduce the symptoms of depression, which can be common among people with a long-term illness like rheumatoid arthritis.
Myth No. 8: Any exercise is good for rheumatoid arthritis.
"Some people think if they just exercise a lot, they'll make themselves better," says Richard Brasington, MD, professor of medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. Although exercise doesn't cure rheumatoid arthritis, the right kinds can help ease symptoms. Be sure to get plenty of exercise that strengthens your muscles, like weightlifting and calisthenics, in addition to low-impact aerobic exercise. Strength training will help make your joints more stable, Dr. Brasington notes.
Myth No. 9: Living in a hot, dry climate can cure your rheumatoid arthritis.
According to the NIH, no particular type of climate has been shown to improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Myth No. 10: You should wait until you have serious joint problems before you start medications.
Doctors often give patients fairly powerful medicines early in the course of their disease, especially if they have a severe case of arthritis. This can help prevent permanent joint damage. Anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drugs, for instance, are frequently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. These medications affect the body's natural defenses, the immune system, by blocking proteins that lead to swelling, inflammation, and associated joint pain.
Although some patients worry that "these drugs are going to mess up their immune system, we do have 15 years of experience with some of these agents," Moreland says. "When I have a patient who's reluctant, I don't push her. I suggest, 'Let's try it and see if it makes you feel better.' Usually when I prescribe an anti-TNF agent, the patient feels so much better and says, 'You gave me my life back. Thank you so much for doing that.'"
* By Eric Metcalf, MPHMedically reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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