My Autoimmune Disease: Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

I wrote a similar post over a month ago now on how I’d been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and as it was all new to me, I felt really alone with it all and was hoping there were others out there who could share their stories with me. Almost two months later and I’m ready to do an update!

If you haven’t read my last post which I’ll link here, and you’re unsure what Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is, here’s some info:

RA is a chronic and progressive autoimmune disease that mistakenly attacks the healthy cells in your body, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in various joints of the body. It can also affect and cause problems in organs such as the heart, lungs and eyes. Long term, it can result in deformity and immobility.

At age 20, I had a left knee injury which caused the onset of my RA. My knee became seriously inflamed and swollen and very painful. Walking let alone anything else became a task. A year later after many tests, x-rays and MRI’s, I was told I had RA and at that time, it had spread to my right knee. A month later, it had spread to my right elbow and the left side of my jaw. Typically, RA is more common in hands and feet but it can affect all joints.

The inflammation, swelling and pain is called a ‘flare’ and flare ups can happen very frequently or every now and again. RA is genetic and my dad was diagnosed with it several years ago yet he’s only experienced one short flare up in his wrist. Whereas I on the other hand, feel as though I’ve had this flare for roughly a year now. Shortly after my knee injury when it became inflamed and began to swell, it has never gone away. I only have bad days or better days.

Generally I’m happy, smiling and getting on with life and as much as I don’t want this to come across as a pity post, this can be a very serious disease and I want to share my honest story so far. The mornings are always the hardest. Because I’ve been sleeping for several hours, my joints become very stiff and I dread the morning stretch because it’s so painful for me now. My legs and right arm can no longer straighten properly so where my body naturally wants to stretch out, the swelling and inflammation acts as a painful barrier. I can barely open my mouth first thing in the morning because of my jaw so I try to keep yawning to a minimal. I practically crawl to the bathroom in the morning where getting up and down from the toilet seat is like mission impossible and I’m currently trying to learn to use my left hand for most things like brushing my teeth.

Honestly, I hate having to do things early in the morning because it doesn’t allow my joints time to ‘warm up’ so it’s all very painful. I’m very slow and can’t fully focus on whatever I should be doing. On bad days, it can affect my whole body because for all my affected joints, I usually have to substitute another part of my body so although my knees are inflamed, a lot of the time my legs generally ache because I’m shifting my weight and the pressure elsewhere. I often have a lot of pain in my hips and lower back too.

By mid afternoon, I’m usually back to my idea of my current normal self and I’m a lot more active and can move around more freely however as of lately, I am really struggling with fatigue. I feel exhausted all the time even with a decent amount of sleep. One thing I really have to focus on is my diet and what sort of foods I’m eating. There are a lot of inflammatory foods such as take away meals, fried foods, alcohol, bread, fizzy drinks and any processed foods. It might not sound a lot but on a daily basis it can prove a little hard to control. There are certain foods/drinks I have to have to help reduce inflammation such as fish, ginger, garlic, chai tea, green tea and fruits.

I’m currently waiting for my next few appointments to discuss treatment going forward. I’m expecting to take steroid injections mainly for my knees but as my disease has progressed I’m hoping to receive another medication for pain-relief too. I have been lucky enough to have private healthcare for the past few months which really has helped to speed up the process and answer a lot of questions for me. I’m sure I’ll do another update once I’ve started my treatment!

elisekirsten xo.

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