Patient Experiences

6 Treatment Options for Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you’ve been living with rheumatoid arthritis, you know that the symptoms can be unpredictable. You may feel good one day and have a flare-up the next. It’s not possible to eliminate RA symptoms, but several treatment options are available that can help you manage them.   The first line of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is usually medication. However, physical and occupational therapy can also be effective for symptom management and improving quality of life. Surgery can help reduce pain and improve functioning.  Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are one of the most common treatment options for RA. They can help relieve RA pain, swelling, and inflammation. NSAIDs do not change the course of the disease or prevent joint destruction and are often used in conjunction with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS).  NSAIDs work on a chemical level in the body. They block cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme the body uses to make naturally occurring fatty acids called prostaglandins that play a role in pain and inflammation. Most NSAIDs block COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, while some only block COX-2. These are known as COX-2 inhibitors.   Common NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). Many NSAIDs are available over the counter and stronger ones are available as prescriptions.   Although NSAIDs are generally safe, they do have some side effects. These include:   Stomach …

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What is Spoon Theory?

Living with a chronic illness can be debilitating. Some days, you may wake up with enough energy to climb Mount Everest. But on other days, you can barely roll out of bed and every action takes every ounce of energy you have. Because chronic illness can be so unpredictable, it can be difficult to explain exactly how you are feeling and how difficult some days really are. Spoon Theory “Spoon Theory” is a simplistic way for people who have a chronic illness to express how much energy they have. The theory was created by Christine Miserandino, a lupus patient advocate. From the young age of fifteen, Miserandino had been diagnosed with a variety of illnesses from chronic fatigue syndrome to Epstein-Barr virus. It wasn’t until many years later that she was finally diagnosed with lupus. Lupus is one of many autoimmune disorders where the body’s immune system can’t distinguish healthy cells from foreign cells and mistakenly attacks the healthy ones. While symptoms will vary between conditions, some common symptoms among conditions include: Fatigue Joint pain and/or swelling Abdominal pain and/or cramping Digestive issues Skin problems Cognitive difficulties One night, Miserandino was out to dinner with her best friend when she …

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Member Story: Living with Major Depressive Disorder

Meet TrixieSwizzle, PatientsLikeMe member since 2017. TrixieSwizzle has been managing her Major Depressive Disorder for as long as she can remember. She has also been living with HIV since 2002. She believes strongly in the power of sharing your story as a form of therapy and is an open book about her condition. “I have been trying to implement a ‘zen’ philosophy in my life. No drama, no toxic people or things, etc. – some days it works and some days… well… I tell myself I will try again!” Watch TrixieSwizzle share her story:     Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, with an estimated 17.3 million adults age 18 or older having at least one major depressive episode in 2017. About 1 in 6 adults will have depression at some point in their life, but anyone at any age can get depressed. If you are looking for more information about living with MDD check out some of our additional blogs: Am I Depressed? Surprising Signs of Depression 10 Ways to Get Through Tough Times Warning Signs for Suicide How to Treat Major Depressive Disorder 8 Celebrities Who Struggle with Depression …

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4 Types of Multiple Sclerosis (Plus Two You Didn’t Know About)

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune condition that impacts the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. It affects nearly one million people in the United States and more than 2.3 million people worldwide. MS is a progressive disease, meaning it can get worse over time without treatment. However, treatment can’t always slow the progression of the disease. There are four types of multiple sclerosis: clinically isolated syndrome, relapsing-remitting MS, primary progressive MS, and secondary progressive MS.   Common symptoms of MS that can occur at any stage include numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, loss of balance, and spasticity. Other symptoms that can occur with the condition include fatigue, cognitive changes, and weakness.   Multiple sclerosis is a complex and unpredictable disease. Because there is no way to know for certain how someone’s MS will progress, there is no set timeline for how long it will take to move from one stage to the next.   Clinically Isolated Syndrome   Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is one type of multiple sclerosis. With CIS, the first episode of neurologic symptoms lasts at least 24 hours. These include:  Numbness or tingling   Dizziness and shakiness  Muscle stiffness  Paralysis  Vision changes, such as double vision  Bladder or bowel dysfunction   CIS is caused by inflammation or demyelination, which is the loss of myelin. Myelin is a protective sheath of fatty tissue that protects the nerve cells, including those in the brain and spinal cord. Damage to the myelin sheath interrupts nerve signals from …

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5 Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting 1.3 million adults in the United States. It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body instead of protecting them. A healthy immune system protects against germs and sends fighter cells to attack them. But with autoimmune diseases, the immune system treats normal cells like foreign cells and releases autoantibodies that attack healthy cells. Autoantibodies are antibodies that mistakenly target a person’s own tissue or organs. Experts are unsure about what causes autoimmune diseases, but one theory is that microorganisms like bacteria and viruses trigger changes that confuse the immune system.   When you have RA, the immune system sends antibodies to the lining of your joints. The antibodies then attack the tissue surrounding the joints. This causes soreness and inflammation in the layer of cells, called the synovium, that covers your joints. The synovium releases chemicals that can damage bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. If left untreated, these chemicals can cause the joint to lose its shape and alignment. Over time, these chemicals can destroy the joint completely.   RA is 2.5 times more common in women than men. While it can develop at any age, it most commonly occurs in people between the ages of 20 and 50. Late-onset RA or elderly-onset RA occurs when it develops in people between the ages of 60 and 65.  Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:  Joint stiffness that is often worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity  Joint pain …

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Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: What’s the Difference?

There are over 100 different types of arthritis. While many forms of arthritis are similar, different types are more painful than others and can impact daily activities. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common types. These two specific types of arthritis share some symptoms, but they have different causes and treatments.   What is Osteoarthritis?  Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 32.5 million adults in the United States. It is often known as degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis because it can result from repetitive movements, like playing sports, that put pressure on the joints. Joints are the intersection where two bones come together. In between joints is cartilage, a firm but flexible protective tissue that cushions the ends of bones and protects them from rubbing against each other. With osteoarthritis, cartilage breaks down over time and causes the bones to rub together. When bones rub together it causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and other symptoms.   Osteoarthritis occurs most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees. It may also occur in the shoulder and spine, usually at the neck or lower back.  The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age, although it can …

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7 Ways to Deal with Emotional Exhaustion

No matter what you’ve faced this year, 2021 has been full of challenges and change. With one stressor after another, including the continuation of COVID-19 on top of pressures from a job, raising a family, or managing a chronic illness, you may be wondering what else you will have to face.  As adversities continue to come your way, you might start to feel more irritable and tired. You may notice an inability to concentrate or feeling less motivated than usual. You may even feel trapped or stuck. Know there’s nothing wrong with the way you’re feeling. You’re just emotionally exhausted. What is Emotional Exhaustion? Emotional exhaustion happens when you carry heavy emotions triggered by negative or challenging events in life that just never seem to end. This chain of events can leave you feeling worn out and drained. For many, emotional exhaustion builds up slowly over time. Some common symptoms of emotional exhaustion include: Lack of motivation Irritability Fatigue Feelings of hopelessness Changes in sleep Changes in appetite Headaches Difficulty concentrating More absences at work failure to meet deadlines What Causes Emotional Exhaustion? Life challenges are normal and are going to happen. But experiencing especially difficult challenges over an extended …

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Medications for Multiple Sclerosis

Although there is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis, there are several medications that can help improve the quality of life for MS patients. Medications can help ease symptoms, keep the disease from progressing, and reduce the frequency of a relapse. Medications for multiple sclerosis include pills, injections, or infusions. Finding the right medication to treat your MS may take time. It may also take time to see improvements. Once you have established a treatment plan with your healthcare providers, continue to follow it until your providers tell you to stop. Make sure you communicate any side effects you experience. Remember that each person’s body may respond to medication differently. Disease-modifying Drugs Disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) are a group of drugs that modify or influence the underlying disease course. They are also known as immunomodulatory drugs. DMDs target some aspect of the inflammatory process of MS. This reduces the frequency and severity of relapses. DMDs also help prevent new brain lesions. The FDA has approved 17 disease-modifying agents for MS as of 2019. DMDs cannot reverse or halt MS. But they can slow disease progression. This means less damage will accumulate over time, resulting in fewer relapses and symptoms. It is …

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10 Ways to Get Through Tough Times

Life is like a roller coaster. There are a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Sometimes you’re on a flat track, moving along at an even pace, and other times you feel like things have come to a screeching halt.  It’s the downhill moments when we feel the ride of life coming to a stop where we all need a little extra support and guidance. Maybe that moment is a loss of a job, a new diagnosis, a family member who’s become ill, or maybe the weight of life just feels heavy. While some of these obstacles we face are far out of control, we can control how we respond to different situations. By improving our ability to navigate the tough times, we learn how to live a more joyful life and grow as people. 10 Ways to Help Get Through the Tough Times Here are a few ways to get through the tough times and come out stronger. Feel Your Feelings Feeling your feelings is one of the most important and helpful things you can do to help you get through the tough times. All too often, our first reaction is to push away our feelings or …

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Holiday Recipes for People with Chronic Illness

When you have a chronic illness, traditional holiday meals can affect how you feel.  If you have kidney disease, you may need to watch your protein and salt intake. For other conditions like heart disease or diabetes, you may need to limit refined sugars. Still, other conditions like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease may require a low-fat, gluten-free diet. Regardless of your condition, navigating the holidays while adhering to your diet can be difficult. While it may be tempting to abandon your healthy routines around the holidays, doing so would be harmful to your health. Instead, do your best to prepare ahead of time so you can prevent your symptoms from getting worse and have an inclusive holiday meal. Communication is key for proper preparation. Make sure to tell your host, or if you are the host to notify your guests, of your dietary needs. Hosts may not need to make an entire meal specific to dietary restrictions, but small changes and adjustments here or there can make a huge difference.  Holiday Recipes Here are a few holiday recipes and meal recommendations for people with chronic illness: The Starters The best appetizers are not usually accommodating for people who follow …

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