10. Diagnosis of RA is tricky.
It depends on the patient’s history, symptoms, physical exam, and blood tests. However, due to the dire need for early diagnosis, in 2010 the American College of Rheumatology changed the diagnostic criteria to allow for a clinical diagnosis without positive blood work (called “sero-negative RA”).
Rheumatoid Arthritis and all the Autoimmune Arthritis diseases are complex, life-altering diseases which require a great deal of work to manage effectively. But, if diagnosis and treatment begins early and the right treatment combination is found, patients can obtain better quality of life, with less permanent damage to joints, tissues, or organs.
11. Don’t give up!
One of the most difficult things to deal with as a patient with an autoimmune arthritis disease is what’s known as a “loss of identity.” Many have to give up the jobs they’ve done for years, their favorite hobbies and sports. In addition, the obnoxious fatigue and overwhelming pain make it difficult for them to keep up with their friends and family, causing them to frequently cancel on social engagements. Suddenly, they no longer feel like the same person they once were, and they aren’t sure where to direct their anger, their energy, or their passion. There are wonderful organizations that help patients cope with their disease day-to-day by providing educational materials, support, and allowing them volunteering opportunities to help them feel empowered.