Tag Archives: symptoms

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.

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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Samantha’s Rheumatoid Arthritis Story

Samantha shares her story of rheumatoid arthritis.  She talks about how the disease changed her life and how she adapted to the changes that it brought her.  It is an honest story of what it can be like living with rheumatoid arthritis.  I could relate to her story on many levels.

Potassium Lacking in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients.

potassium foodsAccording to a National Institutes of Health clinical trial, most patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis(RA) do not have high enough intake of potassium in their diet. Deficiencies in potassium  reduces cortisol, a hormone that is involved in immune function and inflammatory response and can result in many RA symptoms.

Potassium is an electrolyte that plays a role in muscle contraction and nerve transmission.  It is also involved in the storage of carbohydrates for muscles.  The relationship between Potassium and sodium and choride is important in maintaining the body’s ph balance. Many expert have recommended that the ratio between potassium and sodium should be 5  times more potassium than sodium.

How can you increase you intake of potassium? Well the best way to increase your potassium intake is in your diet. Food rich in potassium include, sweet potato, banana, potato, plums, prunes, orange juice and oranges, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peaches, spinach, almonds, and  molasses. Cooked foods can loose significant levels of potassium, so when possible choose raw fruits and vegtables. You can get potassium in a multi-vitamin suppliment as well, however the preferred method is in your diet.

Methotrexate for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Long Term Use Considered Safe

The results of a recent study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases indicate that the drug methotrexate (MTX) appears to be safe for long term treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.  This conclusion was based on data collected from 88 studies that involved patients treated with methotrexate for at least 2 years.mtx 001

Methotrexate is classified as a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug also known as a DMARD.  Methotrexate had been used to treat psoriasis and cancer prior to its approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in 1988 to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It is also used to treat other autoimmune diseases including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthriis, lupus and vasculitis. It can take from 6 to 12 weeks to feel the full effect of this medication.  Taken once weekly via either 2.5 mg tablets or self injection,  methotrexate blocks certain enzymes that affects the production of folic acid which is necessary for growing cells. Therefore it is necessary to take folic acid suppliments while on methotrexate.

It is important to avoid drinking alcohol while using this medication because of the increased risk of liver damage.  Methotrexate can cause abnormal liver function so it is necessary to have blood work monitoring done every 8 weeks. The 88 studies concluded that 13% of people taking methotrexate experienced elevated liver enzymes however only 3.7% had to stop using the drug due to liver toxicity. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting ( may be based on the dosage), mouth sores, rash, diarrhea, blood count abnormalities,  persistent dry cough, unexplained shortness of breath, cirrhosis of the liver ( rarely), gradual hair loss, and sensitivity to sunlight.  Some over the counter and prescription medications may increase the toxicity of methotrexate so it is important to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any additional medication. Methotrexate can cause birth defects and can cause complications during pregnancy.  It should not be taken if you plan on starting a family.

Patients in the study experienced side effects but usually mild. Methotrexate rates of discontinuation were less than gold, sulfasalazine and penicillamine but more than plaquenil in this study.

Of the 88 studies only 2 assessed the relationship between methotrexate and cardiovascular disease. One study concluded that there was no increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the other suggested that there may be a reduced risk.  There was no increased risk of infections linked to methotrexate.

Allison Parker Runs the Boston Marathon to Support the Arthritis Foundation

Allison Parker is running the Boston Marathon on April 20, 2009 to raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation’s Joints in Motion campaign and to raise awareness about the disease.

Allison Parker

The Arthritis Foundation has provided almost $14 million in grants to more that 200 researchers to help find a cure or better treatments for arthritis.  For over 60 years the Arthritis Foundation’s commitment has resulted in major treatment advances for most arthritis diseases.  The Arthritis Foundation has provided scholarships, self help courses, a wide variety of free educational brochures, along with exercise classes and videos to help those dealing with arthritis diseases.  Their volunteers have served as advocates for over 46 million Americans suffering with arthritis and chronic joint symptoms to local and federal governments.

Alli trains for the Boston Marathon

Alli is running in memory of her grandfather Laurence Kearns who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.  She has set a personal goal of raising $3,000.00.  To date she has raised $1465.00.  Time is running low for her to meet her goal. If you would like to help her raise money for this cause you can donate at Allison Parker’s Donation Page . All contributions are tax deductible.  I just made my donation.  Please remember, no donation is too small, every penny counts.

This is the 113th running  of the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon.   In 2008 nearly 22,000 runners completed the race. This will be Alli’s third Boston Marathon. If you would like to check out Alli’s training progress you can at www.allirunsboston.blogspot.com

How do you handle uncomfortable questions about Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Recently I was asked by a fellow parent at my son’s school, “What did you do to yourself?”  He was addressing my limp. I don’t limp every day.  It comes and goes depending on a myriad of variables.   Sometimes it’s my feet, or my knee, or my ankle, there is no telling which body part is going to  “act up” or when.  I have been asked this question so many times you would think that I would have a standard response, but I don’t. Sometimes I am so focused on trying to get where I need to be  in the least amount of pain that the question takes me by surprise. 

Many times I have taken the time to explain that I have rheumatoid arthritis and frequently the response is “Oh my grandmother (aunt, mother, father, grandfather, fill in your choice of family member)  has that.”  And what they are usually referring to is Osteoarthritis which is not the same.  In the beginning, when I was first diagnosed, I felt the need to clarify this to whomever was posing the question. This only served to frustrate me when most people just don’t get it and aren’t that interested in a medical discussion.

Sometime when I am in a hurry and really don’t feel like getting into an in depth discussion of my medical history, I will come back with a quick reply of “Oh that, I just twisted my ankle on the way out the door.”  People usually nod in understanding and go about their business.  I wonder afterward am I doing myself an disservice by dismissing the symptoms of this disease to avoid an uncomfortable discussion or the look of pity from some.

There have been times when  I have been asked to volunteer for some event or another that I physically would not be able to handle. When I explain that I can’t because I have RA and standing all day (or whatever the task is)  is not something I can physically do, I have been greeted with a look of doubt, as if to say, “Well,  you look fine to me…”.   

Unless I limp or try to give someone a thumbs up, my disease is invisible to the outside world. I don’t think of myself as disable, or courageous,  or a warrior battling the arthritis demon.  I try to take each day as it comes and handle as best I can the challenges that each day bring  just like everyone else with this disease.

 So the question remains; how do you handle the stares, the looks of concern, or just the questions? How do you deal with people who don’t understand?  Is there one easy answer?  I would love to hear how you respond to these issues.

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