Everything You Really Need To Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis
By Michelle October
Turns out, you can get it as early as your twenties. Here’s everything you need to know, as told by one RA sufferer.
Tracey-Lee Davis, 27, had practised dance from the age of six, so when, at age 14, she began getting constant pins and needles in her legs, she presumed it was a consequence of her years of dancing. But her symptoms worsened, resulting in pain and weakness in her knees and legs.
Two GPs diagnosed Tracey-Lee with growing pains, which didn’t make sense to her, as she’d always been petite.
A rheumatologist took blood tests and diagnosed her with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a disease that causes the immune system to attack joint linings. RA can attack the entire body with swelling that’s warm to the touch. The onset age is 35 to 55 years and 75 percent are women. Pain ranges from mild to crippling and is often accompanied by dry eyes and fatigue. Stress and infections can trigger the disease in someone with a genetic predisposition and cause flare-ups later on.
- First treatment: Tracey-Lee started on anti-inflammatories and Methotrexate, a drug that inhibits or suppresses cellular growth
As one of the side effects of anti-inflammatories is gastrointestinal problems, Tracey-Lee developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Second treatment: It was then a process of elimination to determine which anti-inflammatory she could use long-term without damaging her colon. She was treated with high doses of steroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS) like Salazopyrin and drugs to protect the lining of her colon.
- Third treatment: During a serious flareup, her rheumatologist motivated that she go onto Humira, a drug that’s been proven to stop the disease’s progression. “I was fortunate to be one of the first patients in the country to go on this drug,” says Tracey-Lee. “I haven’t spent months at a time in a wheelchair and my flare-ups aren’t as severe.”
Four years ago, Tracey-Lee was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, commonly associated with RA.
- Fourth treatment: On top of her RA medication, Tracey-Lee was prescribed Trepiline, a muscle relaxant, to target the widespread pain, as well as lots of rest.
LOWER YOUR RISK
Kick the butts. Research shows that smokers are nearly twice as likely as non-smokers to develop RA, whether they are genetically predisposed or not. What’s more, when a puffer does get RA, her symptoms are worse and don’t respond as well to therapy.