Friday, February 15, 2013

Pain in Pink

I know everyone is wondering what happened to me, since I haven't been on Twitter and Facebook much lately. I am having a Rheumatoid Arthritis "Flare-up".

My feet are swollen and hurt badly. My arms and hands are the worst parts, although my neck comes in a close second. It is difficult to type and use the mouse.

Wikipedia explains Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks flexible (synovial) joints. It can be a disabling and painful condition, which can lead to substantial loss of functioning and mobility if not adequately treated.
The process involves an inflammatory response of the capsule around the joints (synovium) secondary to swelling (hyperplasia) of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development of fibrous tissue (pannus) in the synovium. The pathology of the disease process often leads to the destruction of articular cartilage and ankylosis (fusion) of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also produce diffuse inflammation in the lungs, membrane around the heart (pericardium), the membranes of the lung (pleura), and white of the eye (sclera), and also nodular lesions, most common insubcutaneous tissue. Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, autoimmunity plays a pivotal role in both its chronicity and progression, and RA is considered a systemic autoimmune disease. It is a clinical diagnosis made on the basis of symptoms, physical exam, radiographs (X-rays) and labs.[1]"

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a auto-immune disease. Although Arthritis is mentioned, it is not a real factor, unless you also have Osteoarthritis, as I do. You can look up on Wikipedia; it goes into much more detail. So, don't ever dismiss someone when they tell you they have RA, with the phrase "Oh, yeah! I have trouble with arthritis in my knees." RA is so much worse than arthritis. It can be extremely painful. It was discovered in 2009 after I had pneumonia in North Carolina. I was in the hospital in New Bern for 10 days in August. Everyone you can imagine was trying to find out what was wrong. I had every x-ray you could possibly think of. All they could come up with was pneumonia. They had me on morphine because the pain was so bad and oxygen because if I hurt, I would forget to breathe. 

There was a group of traveling doctors that spent their time going to different hospitals and working for a month or so, then moving on to another hospital. They were some of the best in their fields in NC. I saw heart, internal medicine, infectious disease doctors, and a neurologist. I didn't feel like I had pneumonia, but that was probably due to the generous doses of morphine.

My daughter, Rhonda would spend the night with me. She was a teacher-assistant and they were on Summer break. I slept a lot. After they determined I wasn't dying, my mother left to go home to Kentucky. When I finally got out of the hospital, Ray took me to our little house in NC for the night. Then we got up the next morning and came back to Virginia. I was so glad to drive over that State line. That was on Sunday. On Monday, I went to get my blood checked at the Cancer Center. Dr. Schlesinger had been the intermediary with the hospital in NC and with Riverside Regional. She wanted to see me and insisted I have another chest x-ray. Well, guess what, I still had pneumonia and I was put in Riverside for the next 9 days. The doctor had her nurse go back through my records and see if there was anything that might be causing this. He went through everything and then he was going through test results and he came to the BRACA test for breast cancer. I didn't test positive for breast cancer, but evidently I had two markers for Rheumatoid Arthritis. They had found the cause of a lot of my pain. 

When I was over the pneumonia and sent home, they sent me to Dr. Wilson, one of the few RA doctors in this area. He put me on Enbrel, which is a biologic and comes in a shot. I give myself a shot every week in my belly. Oh, don't worry, I have had a tummy tuck and have no nerves that work there. Doesn't hurt at all. I also take methotrexate and prednisone. I have pain pills that I try not to use, but sometimes when I start to hurt, it is better to take something and head the pain off at the pass. I cannot take over-the-counter medicine for pain because it might take so many that it could cause liver failure.

So, right now, I am going through a flareup in my RA. This too shall pass. I am on a few prayer lists. I know it is driving Ray crazy because I cannot drive. I simply cannot take pain medication and drive. The few places I have gone lately, he has taken me. 

I contacted the doctor on Wednesday and he put me on a prednisone pack, and I am better already. The only thing about the prednisone is that it helps add weight to my thighs.

So, if you have a friend or relative that has RA, don't feel sorry for them, but ask if there is anything you can do to help. A dear friend brought a quiche for our dinner for Valentines Day! I still was not feeling well enough to go out.

For more information about Rheumatoid Arthritis click here.


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