A fellow blogger recently wrote about the correlation between chronic pain caused by her Still’s Disease and her monthly visitor… and this really got me thinking. What is the correlation between lady hormones and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) pain? Here are a few things we already know.
RA affects three times as many women as it does men
Many women begin feeling their first RA symptoms after giving birth
So I started keeping track of my own symptoms and doing some additional online research.
It turns out I DO feel absolutely terrible just before and after aunt flow is in town. I mean most girls I know might get bitchy or some occasional cramps before the painter is in, but I straight up can’t walk or function. It just isn’t right!
And if my personal story isn’t convincing enough, Medicine.net says the following.
Researchers are finding that the immune system is influenced by signals from the female reproductive hormones. It seems that the levels of hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, as well as changes in these levels can promote autoimmunity. “Autoimmunity” is a condition whereby the immune system (which normally wards off foreign invaders of the body, such as infections) turns and attacks the body’s own tissues, such as skin, joints, liver, lungs, etc. Autoimmune diseases typically feature inflammation of various tissues of the body.
When women report only having symptoms or having increased symptoms at monthly intervals that coincide with their menstrual periods, many doctors will recommend adjusting or adding medication to reduce inflammation selectively just before and during the period. The rationale for this short-term adjustment is that the immune system may be temporarily more active as women’s hormone levels change during their periods. The additional medication can frequently help to avoid the symptom roller coaster that affects many women with arthritis.
This leads me to question why not one single Rheumatologist, or OBGYN for that matter has ever discussed the correlation between hormones and RA with me? It seems clear that a relationship between the two exists. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and start tracking your monthly friend to see if you find a pattern. I’d love to hear your feedback.
Great article Daniel, I couldn’t agree more. As someone who was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at 23 years of age, I am scared to death that the there will be nothing available for me to lean on if I am unable to continue working in the future. Read the Article at HuffingtonPost
I came across this cartoon on RA Guy’s blog this morning and thought it was so right on that I had to share with my readers too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this way.
What’s wrong with this picture?
“And before anyone gets upset, I am not trying to compare the diseases mentioned above, all of which are serious. I am merely trying to make a point about the uniformed comments and lack of awareness that RA Superheroes encounter on a regular basis. We have all received these responses, plus many others, at one time or another during our journey through chronic pain and debilitating inflammation” – RA Guy
Rheumatoid Arthritis is one of those infamous invisible diseases…if you’re lucky. If you’re lucky, the doctors diagnose you in a timely manor so physical aspects of the disease don’t begin to mutilate your body. If you’re not lucky, your fingers and toes begin to curl up and take on a new form which you cannot control. It repulses you to look at your own joints and limbs. You want to crawl into bed and cover your head without ever making a public appearance again. Unfortunately you can’t do this as you’re a single 23 year old girl with bills to pay.
You just graduated college so you are thousands of dollars in debt and living in an urban apartment that costs more than a half of your monthly salary. Just weeks ago you were jet skiing at a friend’s weekend cabin without a care in the world. The sun was shining down upon you, your hair was blowing wild in the wind and all you could think about was the promise of your bright future. You just landed your dream job at an advertising agency making a less than satisfactory salary, but hey you’re really MAKING it, right? That’s how it seems until you wake up one day, unable to move your shoulder. When you try to squeeze your hand or fingers together, you cry. You’re such a strong women, but you cry when squeezing your fingers together? What’s wrong with you? Why are you acting so weak?
The orthopedic specialist says it’s just tendonitis, wraps you in a shoulder splint and tells you to take it easy for a few weeks. The pain becomes so unbearable but you push back those tears, go to work and sit at your desk like a good worker bee for 55 hours a week. You try aimlessly to type with one hand for days and then weeks but the pain doesn’t end, it starts spreading. Next your feet start going numb, both of them. You can barely get out of bed in the morning because your feet start burning to the point that you have to peep out of the sheets to make sure there hasn’t been a house fire in the night. The podiatrist says it’s just plantar fasciitis (an inflammatory foot disease which comes and goes, causing minor pain and swelling) due to all the jogging in the months and years prior. It’ll go away, the doctors says, just give it some time. At this point, you have your shoulder in a splint and you’re limping at the same time. How did you go from jogging and jet skiing to this invalid of a person at 23 years old in just a few weeks?
Six months pass and you are juggled from physician to specialist to orthopedic to podiatrist when someone finally decides to take your blood and test your Rheumatoid factor. They finally say you’ve been diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis. They say that this explains all of the pain and curling of your joints. Arthritis? Isn’t that an old person’s disease? I think my grandmother has arthritis in her ankle… Why does my whole body hurt? What does Rheumatoid mean? How did this happen? What did I do wrong? I am too young for a chronic disease. There is no cure? Will I feel like this for the rest of my life? No one in my family has Rheumatoid arthritis. Those are just a few of the thousand thoughts that cross your mind the first time you hear your diagnoses. This is when you realize that your life is about to change… forever.
This blog is the first of a series on what it’s like to be diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.