I was diagnosed with RA in 2008 but my rheumatologist is adamant that I have had the disease for about 15 years; it just wasn't diagnosed in the UK.
I have had the pain and stiffness in my thumb joints and my knees but I was told that I was too young to have RA - I was in my thirties.
Unfortunately my problems go further than RA as I have had three strokes and have a long standing back problem and the strokes, RA and back problem mean that my hips are very painful.
I noticed big problems with my hands whilst on holiday in June 2008, I saw my GP when I got home and she sent me for blood tests. When the result came back a couple of days later she made an appointment with the rheumatologist. He told me it was RA before the x-rays were done and started me on prednisone immediately and 25 mg of methetrexate. The x-rays confirmed his diagnosis. I also take 5mg of folic acid to counteract the methetrexate. Since the diagnosis I have found the RA has spread and I also have osteo arthritis too; oh joy!
Recently the rheumatologist sent me for a bone density scan on my hips and back. The result is I have Osteopenia,which is where the bone density is lower than normal. It is considered by many doctors to be a precursor to Osteoporosis.
I was told that exercise, weight bearing kind, is the best thing to keep Osteoporosis at bay but my mobility is limited due to the RA, back problem and the legacy of the strokes. I am having physio twice a week to help my hips and back and I have exercises to continue at home.
When I get pain I use cold packs on my hands, wrists, ankles and feet. For my back, hips and knees I use a heat pad. The worst pain from the RA now seems to be with my neck/upper back/vertebrae and jaw. When my neck is very painful it gives me a headache that is like a cap right over my scalp to my forehead, it also gives me incontinence. The jaw pain means that eating and swallowing are difficult and my left ear seems blocked so that I have difficulty in hearing. I have an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat consultant.
For me the fact that you never know where the pain will raise it's head. It is a magical mystery tour every day and each joint wants to join in and not be left out of the party. Sharing with other people what is happening with the disease, the side effects of medication helps to ease the horrors of this nasty disease.