It started like any other early spring day with birds chirping outside the window as the sun began to shine through the white Battenburg lace curtains signaling the morning. This usually was something to look forward to after a long winter, however when I put my feet down on the floor to stand, the pain and stiffness raced up my shins. It was a pain and stiffness I'd never felt before. I hobbled to the bathroom like a stick-figure half awake wishing I'd "loosen up" soon. Afraid to admit that I might have a problem, just as any single mother of two would do, I dismissed the pain and stiffness as a sign of "getting older". I was later to learn that women in the prime of their life and with young kids in elementary school do not awake with pain and stiffness for no reason.
The pain increased over the next several weeks including many other joints, such as my hips. These areas were not originally affected and it signaled a worsening condition. While the pain robbed me of sleep daily, and the annoying stiffness that seemed to never go away, I still convinced myself that nothing was wrong. Not only was I stiff, but my range of motion seemed limited as well. Finally, I'd had enough of this annoyance each morning that lasted well into the day, so I arranged for a doctor's appointment. On my very first internist visit, he examined me and wrote my referral to see a Rheumatologist. Needless to say, I was taken aback, as I just thought all I needed maybe was an antibiotic or something of the like. Once over the shock, I began to do countless research as to what a Rheumatologist was, what diseases they treated, and why.
Armed with "wikipedia facts", I then began to be concerned. The appointment day came with, many x-rays of my major joints taken. The doctor called me back and said to me, "You are so young for this to be happening, but you have no choice but a total left hip replacement. How soon shall I schedule your surgery?" That was my initial visit and diagnosis. On March 9th, 2006, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus which has created a rheumatoid-like arthritis all over my body.
All joints are now affected. To date, I've had a total left hip replaced and the other one will need total replacement within a year or two. So innocent it seemed, however the arthritic condition has gotten progressively worse since 2006 in that more joints are affected, but so is my range of motion. As with any arthritic condition and there are several types, inflammation is a common component of the disease. Regardless of the type, the disease of arthritis is damaging to any individual. The following are a few of the ways in which people experience the damaging affects associated with arthritis:
*loss of interest in usual activities
*lessened drive to do once enjoyable activities
*low energy is always an issue and not cured by more rest or sleep
*movement instills more pain making any activity worthless
*usual routines are disrupted unexpectedly and often
*living becomes a matter of survival from one infection to the next
*the hopelessness compounds itself
*the distancing of loved ones and relationships grows with time... (You seem so old)
Unfortunately, all of the above and many more are some of the aspects of arthritis that many deal with on a daily basis. It is a way of life. Arthritis can have many faces, it can seem so harmless, it can endure some of the most powerful of modern medications, and the bottom line is that its damaging affects are lasting. Once arthritis gets a grip on your body, the bond is one that will not break. For any of the rheumatoid type arthritic suffers, early and swift treatment is your best option for a successful chance at remission. A remission is the goal to curtailing as much of the lasting damage to each joint or bone as possible. The perscription dosage anti-inflammatory medications are a must of any good routine along with, pain killers, and other disease modifying drugs. In this area, methotrexate has been a standard for me thus far with a whole host of others, however, it's not working, yet I remain hopeful.
The affects of osteoarthritis are not as difficult to deal with in that the standard over the counter pain relievers usually will treat the chronic stiffness and pain. This type of arthritis is due to over use and the general "wear and tear" of the joint. Most affected are the knees, fingers, and hips. As well, the osteoarthritis sufferer will experience the usual morning stiffness and pain; however this problem usually does not show up until a person is older. Unlike its counterpart, rheumatoid arthritis can start at a very young age, even in children.
While the basics of this horrible, body disfiguring, image robbing disease have been discussed here, there is so much more that could be explained regarding the different treatment options, the cost of the disease, and the demographics of the disease. Someday, my wish is that arthritis will be eradicated and there will be no more suffering for anyone. Let's work to find a gene therapy for this awful predator.