RA, or Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune system disease which can affect anyone at anytime in their life; and although there is currently no cure, there are many forms of treatment available which make the condition anywhere from slightly more bearable to symptom free.
It would be natural to feel that a diagnosis of RA would be the worse thing you could hear, but I would argue that in fact, it should be viewed as great news - as the earlier the disease is diagnosed and treated, the better for the person affected.
I take this view as in my experience, recognising the symptoms can sometimes be problematic. There are two articles about the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis here, which give a good description of what to look for Check for These Arthritis Symptoms and Signs and How To Spot Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms so I've no need to include that information here – but stiffness in any joint, however small should not be ignored.
For example, my RA started in my left thumb, and took several months to affect other joints but soon I was stiff in almost every joint in my body.
As an otherwise fit and healthy 21-year-old, the possibility that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis didn't seem real to me, and although I was displaying all the symptoms of RA, my blood tests were not showing the required 'Rheumatoid Factor' to make an official diagnosis.
I became increasingly fatigued, dragging my poor stiff body to and from work everyday. Sitting on the train was painful, walking to work was painful - and answering the telephone required a technique of bending sideways to bring my head closer to the telephone as my elbow joint was not flexible enough to bring the phone to my ear.
It took another 18 months before my Doctor was able to confirm the diagnosis give me a treatment that worked to relieve my symptoms.
I was given steroids initially, and then Sulphasalzine. Several years of trial and error later and I've now been moved on to Methotrexate combined with Humira injections which work to relieve my symptoms to the point where I hardly ever need to remember that I even have RA.
I've also found that eating pineapple works wonders to reduce the inflammation, and avoiding artificial sugars and sweeteners.
Rheumatoid Arthritis has changed my life, but not in the negative way I had anticipated when I first heard the diagnosis.
We call it RA, and there is a campaign to rename it Rheumatoid Disease, though I'm not certain I want a 'disease' any more than I want 'arthritis'.
Don't get me wrong, I know it's there, under the surface, but I lead an active, happy life – albeit with some unnecessary damage to the joints of my right hand, which I wouldn't have If only I'd got the right treatment earlier, which is why I wrote this article - to make sure that you take action, and aren't afraid of what the result might be.