Tag Archives: inflammation

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.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: SED Rate

Photo Credit: Healtone.com

Photo Credit: Healtone.com

When I was first diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) the doctors started talking to me like I knew what all these terms and tests meant. Even after getting an explanation from the doctors, I was so overwhelmed with information that my head was swimming with facts and figures. After I had time to try absorb what they were saying, I realized I needed more information. I wanted to know more than what the test was for, but I wanted to know how it related to my particular heath.

SED rate was one of those terms that doctors talked about. The ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate) also know as SED rate is a blood test that measures the how quickly your red blood cells settle to the bottom of a test tube in an hour. The more Erythrocytes (red blood cells) that fall to the bottom, the higher the SED rate.

The test is used to detect signs of inflammation not the cause of inflammation. A normal SED rate is between 15 and 20 millimeters per hour. An elevated SED rate may have many possible causes so it’s important to discuss with your doctor all the potential reasons your SED rate is high.

Kitchen Gadgets for Arthritic Hands

Ten years of uncontrolled inflammation has done its damage and my hands no longer work the way that they should. I find that sometimes it’s the simple things that I can’t do that can be the most frustrating.

For me opening a zippered plastic bag is almost impossible. I usually just get frustrated and grab some scissors and cut the thing open and then use one of those slide bags to store the contents in the future.

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The Benefits of Cherries for Arthritis

Researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland have confirmed in recent studies that tart red cherries can reduce inflammation and serum urate levels.

The benefits from the tart red cherries (prunus cerasus) are important for anyone with inflammatory problems especially arthritis and diabetes and connective tissue diseases. Anthocyanins which are plant phytochemicals in the cherries may offer protection from some forms of cancer. The researchers believe that the anthocyanins reduce oxidative stress which is a major cause of inflammation in many diseases.

In an other study, scientist showed that the anthocyanins in tart cherries may help prevent muscle pain experienced after intense exercise. In this study, young men drank cherry juice daily and experienced decreased symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage.

Cherries may also help prevent gout, a painful joint condition.

Weather it’s canned, fresh or frozen cherries the benefits are plentiful. The darker the cherry and tart cherries have higher anthocyanin content and therefore the bigger benefit. Both tart and sweet cherries have high levels of anthocynins.The skin of the cherry holds most of the beneficial anti-oxidants.  In two different studies, women who consumed 2 servings of Bing cherries daily, experienced decreased serum urate levels and reduced inflammatory markers.

Dietary supplements are also a good source of tart cherry at 1200mg/serving. Tart cherries are rich in vitamin C and also have folate, potassium, magnesium, iron and fiber. Cherries are also a good source of natural melatonin. Melatonin is an important anti-oxidant that helps to modulate the immune system and can help protect against degeneration of the neurons in the brain.

Cherry season is right around the corner and I plan on stocking up and enjoying the benefits of nature’s bounty.

Misdiagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): My Lyme Disease Story

As some of you may have heard, I just recently found that I was misdiagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I have Lyme Disease.

Anyone who has followed this blog probably knows that I thought that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) for over 9 years. I have always had some doubt about what was going on with my body and the effectiveness of the treatments the doctors were prescribing. But I trusted my doctors more than I trusted my instincts. My story is a cautionary tale for anyone who has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

Let me start by saying that we live in rural Rhode Island. We have a small 3/4 acre wooded lot. All sorts of wild life can be found in our yard at any given time and there is no shortage of deer that visit our property. We moved out here to raise our family in a quiet, serene place with good schools and friendly neighbors. Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad, and the deer carry ticks that carry Lyme Disease.

Each member of my family at one time or another has had Lyme Disease. It is not uncommon to be outside for only a few moments and pick up one of the poppy seed-sized ticks. For the most part we have all either tested positive with Lyme Disease or the tick if we were able to keep it tested positive with the disease.

9 years ago I had been bitten by a tick. At the time, I was tending to my newborn son, and had two older boys to watch over as well. In prior exposures to the disease, I had felt “flu like symptoms” and that was my cue to get tested. I don’t know if it was adjusting to three boys and 2 jobs or if I was just too busy to notice, but I really don’t remember any “flu like symptoms”.

It started with my ankle. It hurt and was swollen so I went to the urgent care center where they X-rayed it and told me they could find nothing wrong with me. The doctor prescribed an anti-inflammatory and gave me and air-cast. We were going with the assumption that I must have sprained my ankle even though I couldn’t remember doing anything out of the ordinary.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis: How My Journey Began

When I started this blog the idea was to talk about what works for someone with rheumatoid arthritis.  I wrote a fair amount of posts about what foods and herbs help to fight inflammation and a few about the products that made my life with RA a little easier.  All in all I have been pleased with what I have shared and learned along the way about RA.  I hadn’t planned on all the amazing women and men that I have met through this blog that have given me strength and support. That was an unexpected blessing.  To all of you I am truly grateful.

It occurred to me that I really have not shared my story.  How I got to where in am now and the questions that I have been wrestling with lately.  I haven’t written much because I was hoping to have some answers to report instead of more questions.

So I want to take a step backward and start at the beginning, because  how I got here is important.   I didn’t know until recently how important.

About 6 months after Kevin, my youngest, was born my right ankle started to swell.  I hadn’t twisted it. I hadn’t fallen.  There seemed to be no explaination as to why it was swelling and why it hurt. So I went to an urgent care center where they took and X Ray and really could find nothing wrong with my ankle.  The doctor told me I must have sprained the ankle and gave me an air cast to wear for several weeks with some anti inflammatory drugs to take and sent me on my way.  I followed his instructions; I stayed off the ankle as much as possible, I iced it and I took the medication.  Eventually the ankle improved.

Almost as soon as my ankle improved, my left knee started to swell and hurt.  I thought maybe that I had been over compensating for the ankle and had somehow thrown my knee out of whack.  I iced the knee and took anti inflammatory medication and rested it as much as possible and it seemed to improve after about a month or so.

Shortly after my knee stopped bothering me my left wrist began to give me problems.  It really hurt and was swelling a lot.  I thought maybe that I had carpal tunnel because I spend a good amount of time everyday typing.  I went back to urgent care and they seemed to agree that this could be carpal tunnel and they gave me some wrist guards to wear.

I wore the wrist guards as instructed, took more anti inflammatory medication  and hoped for the best.

While my body was giving me all this trouble I was trying to raise a 10 year old, a 6 year old and a new baby boy.  I was exhausted all the time, but at 35 I figured that I was not as young as I used to be and now I had 3 boys needing my attention, a full time job and a business to run with my husband.  I certainly had a full plate and there were plenty of reasons for me to be tired all the time.

My husband works outside all the time and Lyme disease is something that I thought we were pretty familiar with.  It was Eric who thought that maybe it was Lyme disease that was causing this joint swelling.  It is typical for Lyme disease to kind of skip from one spot on the body to the next wreaking havoc. So a few days later I was back at the urgent care center asking for a Lyme test.  The doctor asked me if I remembered a tick bite and I really didn’t.  We live in a wooded area and there were many times that I have been bitten by ticks. We are really careful with deer tick and I am fairly sure that if I had seen a deer tick in me I would have been tested immediately.  The thing is some of these ticks are the size of a poppy seed.  It is within reason that I could have been bitten by a tick the size of a poppy seed in a location that I could not readily see and not know it.  It doesn’t hurt when they bite.  So it is completely possible that I could have been bit and not known it. That was really not what the doctor wanted to hear but I was able to convince him to give me a Lyme test.

Anyway to make a long story longer… after about a week the test came back positive for Lyme disease.  The doctor put me on zythromax for 5 days.

After two weeks I was still not feeling better.  My wrist was really bothering me and the swelling was so bad that I actually lost the ability to give a thumbs up.  There was so much swelling in my wrist that the ligament that moves the thumb was lifted from its initial location (because of the swelling) so that I could no longer give a thumbs up.

I went back to the doctor and he put me on another course of zythromax with some new anti inflammatory medication and sent me on my way.  He told me to give it another two weeks and I should be feeling better by then.

By the time two weeks had passed not only was my wrist swollen and painful but now my feet were swelling and my knee was back to giving me trouble again.

When the doctor took one look at me and knew that the current course of treatment was not working.  He said to me that this was beyond his level of expertise.  He said that he could send me to a infectious disease specialist or he could send me to a rheumatologist.  He felt that the rheumatologist was probably the best way to go because a rheumatologist could handle Lyme disease as well as any arthritis issues that I might have. He said that there was a new rheumatologist in Providence that he had heard good things about and he set up an initial appointment for me and wished me luck.

This is how my journey began.

Stay tuned to hear how we progressed to where I am today.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Survival Mode

These past several months have been an exercise in survival.  I am feeling better than I have in months, but I still have a way to go before I am at a place where rheumatoid arthritis is not in every other thought.  I have come to a place of survival.

All this down time has made me wonder how many of us are living with this disease and how many of us are in survival mode?

What is survival mode? For me it is getting through another day.  Surviving the day with rheumatoid arthritis.  Not exactly my idea of fun, but I am getting by. I wonder what survival means to everyone else with this disease.  While survival is better than giving up it is not where I want to be.

I am an optimist so I believe that this is just a temporary setback on my journey to living well with RA.  The idea that this survival mode is a permanent situation is not something that I am willing to entertain ever.  I have too much fight left in me to settle for half way.

I am grateful to be out of bed. Two months ago I was flat on my back all day long.  I am grateful that I am able to tackle small tasks on a daily basis so that I feel that I have accomplished something.  But this is not where I want to be.  I know that I have a ways to go and that this will probably take longer that I originally anticipated, but I am in this for the long haul and I am determined to find a new way to live with this disease without adding toxic chemicals to my body.

Here is what I have been doing so far and it seems to be having an impact on my overall wellness.

  • I am monitoring my diet and have eliminated dairy from my diet. I have found out the hard way that if I do ingest something that has dairy in it I will swell. I have been adding and subtracting different foods from my diet to see what is having an impact on inflammation. So far dairy has had the biggest impact.
  • I have been taking Flaxseed Oil (I can’t do fish oil supplements) and Vitamin D daily.
  • I have found that mediation helps me sleep better and makes mornings a little more manageable.
  • I am starting to be able to exercise ( I am using this term loosely because the rate of speed that I walk would hardly be called exercise, but it is movement and more than my body has seen in months.)
  • I am careful about what I eat and have lost over 25 pounds since January 1, 2010.
  • I spend time every day visualizing what it looks like to be free of stiffness and pain.

So far I am improving and I hope to be back to my old self soon.

In all honesty I have felt this bad on methotrexate.  I have had the same levels of pain, inflammation, and stiffness while on mtx so I have been pleasantly surprised at my progress and so far happy with my decision to look for an alternative solution to mtx.  It has made me wonder on more than one occasion how well the mtx was really working for me.

So for me, tomorrow is a new day with new hope for less pain and inflammation and life mode not just survival mode.

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