Tag Archives: autoimmune disease

Rheumatoid Arthritis: RA Factor: What Does it Really Mean

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What is an RA factor? Well to start, RA factor is a protein. This protein is made by the immune system to attack certain bacteria and viruses. The blood test to measure the RA factor  is used to help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases, viruses and infections.   What I was told by my rheumatologist and believed,  was that my elevated RA factor along with my swollen joints indicated rheumatoid arthritis. Those two factors alone do NOT necessarily mean you have RA. In my case it did not.

An elevated RA factor can indicate increased autoimmune activity in the body that does not necessarily relate to rheumatoid arthritis. It is extremely important that all  the symptoms be considered before a diagnosis is made and no one test can indicate disease. High levels of RA factor can be found with patients suffering from viruses like Epstein-Barr and diseases like Hepatitis.

Other tests that should be done at the same time include:

  • ANA                          (Anti Nuclear Antibody)
  • Anti-CCP                 (Anti-cyclic citrullinated Peptide)
  • CRP                            (C-reactive Protein)
  • CBC                            (Complete Blood Count)
  • ESR                            (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate or Sed Rate)

I will discuss these tests in future posts.

Under Our Skin: A Real Eye Opener

Have you ever felt like the universe is trying to tell you something?

Have you ever heard the same message again and again and then finally, one day you actually listen?

There were many messages over the years that the universe was sending to me that I just didn’t hear. Maybe I was too busy to listen. Maybe I was just trying to get through the day. I don’t know why the other messages didn’t get through and this one did, but I will forever be grateful that I sat down and watched Under Our Skin.

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National Invisible Illness Awareness Week: September 14 – 20, 2009

Today at 9am pacific time is the kickoff for the annual National Invisible Illness Awareness Week. During this week, those of us with invisible illnesses are encouraged to share our experiences living with our illness in an effort to raise awareness and understanding.  During this week there will be online seminars via blog talk radio discussing the common bond of illness that is not clearly visible to those around us.  The topics of discussion include the emotional side of chronic illness, dealing with the stress, and how to pay for medical care.  Featured speakers include Rosalind Joffe, Jennifer Jaff and Jo Franz. If you are interested the National Invisible Illness Awareness Week site has a listing of the conference schedule on their site click here for the link.

Autoimmune Diseases and Flu Season: H1N1 (Swine Flu) and Seasonal Flu

Every time I turn around lately someone is talking about the swine flu (H1N1). There have been outbreaks on college campuses around the United States and with kids back to school everyone is a little nervous about what germs they may bring home. The vaccine for the H1N1 Swine flu won’t be available until October and the seasonal flu vaccine has only been available to selected clinics and doctors so far.  It is entirely possible that even with the vaccine, many people will catch the flu.

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Let’s face it even if you do everything  right there is a chance that you can get swine flu or the seasonal flu.  Hand washing seems to be the best line of defense and my kids tell me that there are hand sanitizer dispensers in every classroom.  The local schools seem to be doing everything they can to prevent an outbreak, but unless you are living in a bubble there is still that chance that you or the people that surround you will become sick. It is entirely possible that many will come down with swine flu before the proper agencies are even able to get the vaccine to the people that would benefit from it most. So I thought I would talk about what to do if you actually come down with this strain or any other strain of flu.

Firstly, you are not going to know if you have H1N1 or the regular seasonal flu. The symptoms of this and any other strain of flu virus are sudden onset of cold like symptoms. Fever (over 100 degrees), chills, headache, dry cough, runny nose, lethargy, body aches are the most common symptoms but sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. If you or anyone that you are living with is experiencing these symptoms, get to the doctor right away.

The sooner you see a doctor the better.  Anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu must be taken within 12-48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be effective. Tamiflu can help to reduce the duration of the symptoms of the flu up to 30%. Tamiflu is also prescribed for the prevention of the flu if you have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with the flu. This is particularly important if you have a compromised immune system.

If you are unfortunate enough to catch the swine or seasonal flu, there are many over the counter flu remedies that may ease your symptoms. Make sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any over the counter remedy because it may interact with any prescription drugs you are taking.

The most important thing you can do for yourself when sick with the flu is get plenty of rest. Having experienced the flu first-hand I can tell you that your body isn’t really going to want to do anything but rest. Make sure to get plenty of fluids when dealing with the flu because dehydration will only make you feel worse and may slow down the healing process.

If your symptoms do not improve or start to get worse, see a doctor right away. Many people with autoimmune diseases have a more difficult time fighting the flu because of the treatments for their disease often weakens their immune system. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, having difficulty breathing, experiencing chest pains as a result of coughing or are coughing up yellow, green or bloody phlegm get to a doctor right away.  These may be symptoms of a much more serious condition.

Secondary infections as a result of the flu include sinus infections, bronchitis, ear infections and pneumonia. Some secondary infections may result in hospitalization.  It is vitally important to listen to your body and if there is any indication that you are not improving call the doctor.

It can take up to two weeks for a healthy adult to get over the flu.  If your immune system is compromised it probably will take longer. Most people with the flu recover completely within a reasonable amount of time, but there may be lingering symptoms such as a cough and general weakness.  It is important that if you are unsure about any symptoms that you are experiencing that you contact your doctor and do not hesitate.  It is much better to ask to see the doctor and have it be a relatively small issue than hold off and wait to see a physician and have it be much more serious and harder to treat.

Massage for Rheumatoid Arthritis

massage

Massage has been used for centuries to improve health and ease pain in the body-mind. There are more than 100 different types of bodywork they include deep tissue massage, acupressure massage and Swedish massage.  Each one has it’s own technique and approach to bodywork. The benefits of massage therapy for rheumatoid arthritis are increased circulation, flexibility and massage can strengthen the immune system, reduce pain,stress and anxiety.  There is scientific evidence that massage lowers cortisol(stress hormone) levels and  improves immune system function.

When deciding on a massage it is important to find a competent massage therapist that is familiar with rheumatoid arthritis and or other autoimmune disease(s) that you may have. Find a therapist that  is trained in many different techniques.  They will be able to guide you in choosing the best therapy for your particular needs. You can  also check with The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or The American Massage Therapy Association for a listing of certified massage therapists in your area.

Check with your insurance company before you schedule an appointment with a massage therapist.  The session may be offered at a reduced rate through your insurance provider or it may be covered if your doctor prescribed it. Check with your rheumatologist before you make the appointment, he/she may be able to recommend a therapist or give you specific cautions.  Make sure that if you are flaring to hold off until it is under control. Do not have massage on an inflamed joint, it may make it worse.

Once you have the appointment, make sure that you express what it is that you hope to gain from this experience.  Maybe you just want to relax or perhaps there is a particular part of your body that needs special attention.  Be clear about the amount of pain or discomfort that you are experiencing prior to starting the massage and communicate if you are experiencing pain during the process.  When the massage is over make sure to drink plenty of water.  Massage increases circulation and releases toxins trapped in tight muscles.  Water will help to flush out those toxins.

H1N1 (Swine) Flu and Autoimmune Disease: An Update

This is an update on the status of the H1N1 ( Swine ) Flu information since my post on Swine Flu and Autoimmune Disease (click here to view previous post).  One June 11, 2009  Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the World Health Organization(WHO)  raised the worldwide pandemic alert to a Phase 6 ( also known as the pandemic phase).  This phase is characterized by community level outbreak via  human-to-human spread of the virus in multiple parts of the world.

Currently more than 70 countries have reported cases of H1N1 (swine flu)  infection.  This number has been steadily increasing in recent weeks.  The World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to raise the alert level to Phase 6 means that the spread of the disease is worldwide.  At this time it is unclear how serious or intense this pandemic will be.  It is difficult to predict how many people will become infected and how serious the complications from this disease will be..  Because this is a new strain of the influenza virus many people have little or no immunity against it.  As of this post there is no vaccine to protect against the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus. However the U.S. Government is taking steps to process and manufacture a H1N1 (Swine Flu) vaccine.  The CDC (Centers for Disease & Prevention) has isolated the virus and has made a candidate vaccine which will be used to create the vaccine.  It generally takes several months to complete the process to make a vaccine.

Countries in the Southern Hemisphere are just beginning their influenza season.  Information obtained from the Southern Hemisphere countries experiences during their flu season may provide valuable information to Northern Hemisphere countries in preparation for it’s own flu season

All 50 states in the U.S.,  the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have reported cases of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus.  Most people in the United States that have become ill with the H1N1 virus have recovered without medical treatment.  Currently 33,902 cases of the H1N1 (swine flu) virus have been reported in the United States with 170 deaths reported. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) does anticipate that there will be more new cases of this virus reported, more hospitalizations  and more deaths associate with this virus in the weeks to come.  The CDC anticipates signification illness associated with the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus in the fall and winter months which is typically the U.S. influenza season.

The CDC ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)  has issued priority use for antiviral drugs during this outbreak to treat people that are at increased risk of severe illness and those hospitalized with the H1N1 virus.  People at high risk include young children, people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, metabolic disease, lung, heart or kidney disease or those with weakened immune systems and those with neurologic or neuromuscular disease.

The CDC has provided information on what to do if you become sick (click here for link ) and how to care for someone who is sick with the virus at home.(click here for link)  The most important thing that you can do right now is to stay informed.

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