Common myths surrounding rheumatoid arthritis 31



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There are some massive misconceptions about rheumatoid arthritis that need to be understood. Arthritis is common but rheumatoid arthritis is a whole other story. The experts still have a lot to learn about this disease but we do too.

First, let’s explain rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an autoimmune disease where inflammation (pain, swelling and heat) affect the joints – the hands, feet and knees are the most affected areas. Joint stiffness is common, especially in the morning after not being used while sleeping, according to Better Heath Channel. There is no cure but there are effective ways to help manage it.


Here are 8 common myths surrounding rheumatoid arthritis (RA):

1. People with rheumatoid arthritis live in nursing homes and end up in wheelchairs

It is a progressive disease so it can greatly impact peoples lives and cause disability, however, RA takes a different course in people. Many still manage to live independently. There is increasing available information and treatment for people living with RA, which is helping them cope.


2. You can only get rheumatoid arthritis if you’re old

Most people develop RA between the ages of 35 and 65. Anyone can get RA, even teenagers, it is just less common.


3. Rheumatoid arthritis is just like ‘regular arthritis’

“Regular arthritis” is osteoarthritis, which is caused by normal use on ageing joints or injury. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in middle age to older people, where as rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1% of the population worldwide. RA is a chronic, progressive autoimmune disorder. The body makes antibodies that attack its own tissues, which affects joints and other body parts. Flare-ups of these attacks can occur periodically or can be continuous. To add to the confusion, some people with RA also have osteoarthritis.


4. Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t serious

Absolutely false. If RA is not treated properly it can threaten your health and independence. It is essential to seek medical attention early on to prevent severe joint damage. As well, RA increases your risk of other conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases and infections.


5. Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis can be toxic, so you should wait till the disease progresses before treatment

No!! As the previous myth, “rheumatoid arthritis isn’t serious” explains, it is so important to get treatment and medical help immediately. Early prevention can help prevent increased join damage and disability and in sometimes cases delay RA from developing. Yes, medications for RA treatment can have side effects but they will not be worse than the side effects of untreated RA.


6. You can’t work with rheumatoid arthritis

People with RA will need to change their work processes but you can still work. As previously mentioned, there is growing treatment and research to help people with RA so their standards of work and life are changing and improving too. Employment ability should not drastically change for people with RA.


7. Stiff joints from rheumatoid arthritis need to rest all day

People with RA need to stretch and keep exercising. Physical activity is important, even though when joints are painful and stiff, it’s natural to want to not move. It’s a vicious cycle if you do not keep moving – use it or lose it.


8. People with rheumatoid arthritis get cancer

It’s not clear why but people with RA are more likely to get lymphoma (blood cancer) but the overall risk is low for other types. Even with this increased risk, there is still only a small amount of people with RA who get lymphoma too.


Tell us, did you know this information about rheumatoid arthritis? Do you know someone who suffers from this disease? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I have arthritis ( hands, fingers) but my Mum had rheumatoid arthritis, a very debilitating disease.
    I have had blood tests & luckily don’t have RA. Mum had both elbows replaced ( successfully ) but her day to day discomfort & pain was terrible. Her “answers” were, exercise daily, give up tomatoes & live in a warmer climate ( then, Bendigo, Vic) in winter if possible. Can’t say that any of her solutions improved her lifestyle but positiveness did !!

  2. I was diagnosed with RA about 17 years ago and because I was treated early it did go into a form of remission and I suffer only slightly with it. Get diagnosed early seems to be the key.

  3. Have Rheumatoid arthritis. Methotrexate enabled me to live and work for past 27 years. Thanks to my father undergoing trials at Repat, he suffered but rarely complained.

  4. My sister was only in her 20’s when she developed RA. She is now almost 60 and has had remissions only for it to flare up again. She has had 3 knee replacements, 2 hips, 2 shoulders and has needed a heart operation as the disease also affects it. According to blood tests and my doctor, I don’t have it. I believe it gets triggered especially by very cold weather for the long term. We have a great aunt who developed it (in the 40’s) after she was widowed and had to work in a freezing cold dairy farm (in Ireland). My sister also developed it after living on the island of Skye for 2 years (it’s bloody freezing there most of the year)

  5. RA also affects eyes, heart, lungs, skin, and any other part of the body that has connective tissue. Inflammation of the joints is the most common. I was diagnosed with RA in my mid to late 20’s and have had periods of remission as well as periods of active disease. At the present time I have RA nodules in my lungs which leads to shortness of breath, hence less exercise etc. Be aware that if a person suffers from RA the symptoms are not necessarily visible to other people.

  6. Got it at about 16 am now 62. One myth cold makes it worse, with me it was humidity and heat. Now I’m older it’s the layering of clothes in the cold weather that’s a bit of a nuisance . On Methotrexate now for just on 15 months, should have been on it years ago. Have brown blotches on face and hair thinning though.

  7. I was diagnosed with Ra late last year. I have it in my hands and feet. I am on Methotrexate and Mobic and Folic acid, I have hardly any pain, some mornings my hands are a bit stiff but come good pretty quick . So hopefully I can continue like this. I have blood tests once a month to keep an eye on any side effects from my medication.

  8. I have psioratic arthritis diagnosed around 8 years ago. I began with methotrexate. It took quite a few months for the medication to really kick in and I was like a new person. I have since changed to sulphasalizine and that is working well. I know that my condition is not going to go away but I am definitely happier compared with what I was initially like. Monthly blood tests show things are going well.

    4 REPLY
    • I had psioratic arthritis in my shoulder about 17 years ago, and the rheumatologist told me it is one of a few arthriitis that go into remission and mine did after 2 years, i took salazopyrin for the 2 years, also too my psorasis cleared up after 27 years, 3 of my sisters still have psorasis to varying degrees

    • Hi Carol, Even though I do not have obvious psorasis as in manifesting itself with a skin condition, I was diagnosed with the arthritis associated with it. My daughter developed serious psorasis at age 16 so possibly I have a “latent ” gene that has passed that condition on to her. I know of nobody in my family who has/had psorasis – one of life’s mysteries.

    • Carol that’s hopeful news, thank you. Doug I’m on a similar medication regimen to you but would love to ditch it all. I have daily pain so can’t help but wonder if it’s all actually working. I only ever had a 20 cent size patch of Psoriasis on my scalp, behind one ear. At least that has now gone.

    • Hang on in there Rhondha. I hope all is well for you soon. I had been living and working in Bangkok for 7 years prior to the onset of the arthritis I just thought it was some silly aches and painsI had and pit up with it. On returning toi NZ 8 years ago, the pain got worse and then joints started to seize up. Driving a car became a night mare, not being able to go the distance of more than 40km without being in agony … and wearing gloves in summertime!!! because my hands became so sore just holding the steering wheel. I told my wife I could see myself in a wheelchair by the end of the year! It was then that I really badgered my doctor to refer me to a specialist. The diagnosis was quick and sorted. The methotrexate plus folic acid and codeine took some time to act. The methotrexate I found very good but physically draining. The codeine I stopped becaues of the addictive properties. Three years ago we moved to a new city and my new specialist started me on the sulphsalazine medication and I am much better. Good luck.

  9. I have RA, hands, ankles & knees. Methotrexate, prednisone, plaquenil,folic acid, qid paracetamol & colecalciferol. Still have flare ups & pain. Swimming is helping. Don’t know what else to do.

  10. Diagnosed at 19 but had symptoms from 15, now 55. I am on monthly infusions of Toxcillizumab. It is working well. I find quick changes in temperatures affect me the most. I had to give up work as a cook three years ago because standing for hours was not good for me

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