Hi - new to this forum. Epic post below, but my basic question is whether a collection of health problems I’ve had sounds recognisable as RA or another autoimmune condition. And if my most recent and severe bout of illness is an RA flare, what do I do to cope with it and help it to pass?
I was diagnosed with seronegative RA in 2007 when lots of joints became swollen and painful. The standard morning stiffness was there and the disease responded very well to sulfasalazine. When I moved city a new (and much better) rheumatologist said he suspected it was a reactive rather than rheumatoid arthritis as he’d never seen such good response to sulfasalazine. Never had any joint erosion. Tried tapering down the sulfa a few times with symptoms returning, but after a few miscarriages finally went off in 2012 and symptoms didn’t return. Was officially in remission after a years monitoring and had no trouble with my joints until this year - so six years of drug free remission.
Started having various other health complaints starting end of 2016, about six months after the birth of my second child. First was sporadic wheeziness and dry cough diagnosed as adult-onset asthma in early 2017. My periods went all nuts, which was suspected premenopause but not confirmed. My hair began falling out, as post-pregnancy, but happening continually. My blood sugar was low so was sent for a thyroid test which came back normal. I had recurring chest pain similar to chostochondrotis I’d had years earlier, but this time diagnosed as ‘nerve pain’ and treated with amyltripiline. I began having spells of upper right quadrant abdominal discomfort, sometimes connected with constipation and unquenchable thirst, over the course of a year and diagnosed at the start of this year as IBS. I developed a patch of what looks like vitiligo on my belly, coincidentally at the same spot. I have periods of several days when I’m extremely fatigued, with a stiff neck and dizzinesss. I’ve had a few months of extremely dry eyes which have since resolved itself. And all through this ~two year period, I’ve been low on energy, had trouble sleeping, and often severe anxiety - probably partly fuelled by coping with a stressful job and two young kids. Things have waxed and waned but I’ve never felt fully well and have often felt very unwell.
In spring of 2018, I began having small joint pain and slight swelling again. I saw a rheumatologist, who did a full range of blood tests and, on the basis of past diagnosis and slight synovitis of ultrasound of hands, diagnosed RA again. I’ve been back on sulfa for about four months now and my blood tests have been unremarkable. My joints, which were nowhere near as bad as in 2007, have been quiet from a few weeks after I started taking it - in fact too early for the sulfa to have taken effect - and I had raised trying to go off in case this is not RA at all.
At the end of Nov I had swollen glands for several days and then an upper respiratory illness which passed within a few weeks. My swollen glands remain, though, and the last few weeks I have had absolutely crushing fatigue as well as dizziness and abdominal, back and neck pain. In the last week my joints have begun to ache as well. I’m exhausted no matter how much sleep I have, and wake with a pounding heart as if I’m filled with adrenaline. Work stress and childcare are both reduced, so I don’t think this is anxiety. It’s dawned on me (belatedly) that this could be an RA flare up - though it’s not the same as the mainly joint swelling flares I had a decade ago. So I’m lost knowing how to cope, and also wondering whether all the other weird collection of things going wrong with my body could be RA / autoimmune related.
If anyone’s made it this far, I’d be hugely grateful for any thoughts.