“No rain, no rainbows!”

“No rain, no rainbows!”

I have had an amazing year. In September I got married, and my wedding day was about as perfect as it could have been. Nothing seemed to go wrong, and we were lucky to get the one sunny day that week, which meant that we could get married outdoors. This was followed by a honeymoon that fulfilled my lifetime ambition to visit one of the Hawaiian Islands (Kaua’i), an experience I shall never forget.

Nobody has a perfect life. When I was 20 one of my close friends committed suicide; something I don’t think I will ever be able to say I have fully come to terms with. However, had that never happened to me, I might never have come to work at NRAS, as I feel that the helplessness of that situation instilled in me a desire to find a job where I felt I was able to make a difference and really help people. A lovely phrase I picked up in Hawaii (land of the rainbows) expresses this as ‘no rain, no rainbows’.

Overall I think I have been very lucky in my life and with my health, and I like to think that I appreciate how lucky I am. Working on the helpline does help to keep me grounded, as I frequently hear terrible stories about the troubles that some people face in everyday life, whether due to their rheumatoid arthritis or other factors. Some of these people manage in the worst of circumstances to see the positives, and many of them will say that there’s always someone worse off than them. Having said that, everyone is entitled to dark days where you ask: ‘why me?’

The exact causes of rheumatoid arthritis are unknown, though we are aware of some of the factors. There is a genetic susceptibility, and there can be environmental factors, such as smoking or heavy drinking. We also know that more women are affected by the disease than men, which points to a potential hormonal factor. Another common comment that has come through on the helpline was the view that some kind of physical or mental trauma may have trigger RA in some people. Previously we have tended to say that this is purely anecdotal, but that it comes up regularly, but recently we came across a study that seems to provide evidence for this, which may be of interest to anyone that thinks that trauma may have triggered their disease:

rheumatology.oxfordjournals...

You may also find our articles on the genetic and non-genetic causes of RA useful:

nras.org.uk/about_rheumatoi...

nras.org.uk/about_rheumatoi...

With all the rain we’ve been having lately, the rainbows must be on their way!

Victoria Butler

Helpline & Information Coordinator

7 Replies

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  • Thanks for telling us this Victoria and many congratulations! You enchanted wedding does sound perfect although mine 24 years ago in April, was too so maybe we just don't notice the negatives when we are doing something so special?

    For me there had been three sudden bereavements, including both parents and the tragic death of 19 year old son of a close friend to deal with in the run up to RA showing itself - but I personally feel it was more hormonal than anything else with me because it arrived in the midst of my relatively early menopause. I've never yet read anything connecting chronic eczema with RA, but I feel that having had eczema all my life until about 5 years ago when it disappeared completely has to be in some way connected with my RA. Have you come across a connection between allergic conditions and RA I wonder? It would be very interesting to learn more if so. Tilda

  • Hi Tilda

    Thank you for the congratulations. I've spoken to some brides who got so stressed out they didn't enjoy their day as much as they should. I'm glad I wasn't one of them and that you weren't either!

    I'm so sorry to hear of all the loss you had around the time of your diagnosis. It sounds like a number of things could have been the trigger for you, and perhaps it was a combination of factors.

    Menopause is certainly a common time for RA to come on. I have to say that I don't think I've ever read anything linking eczema and RA either. I've just had a look and can't find anything specifically linking allergies with RA, but I can see logic in that, as an allergy involves an over-reaction by the immune-system and we know that people who have one autoimmune disease can be more susceptible to others, so maybe there is a similar link to allergies and auto-immune conditions. People also sometimes say that food allergies exacerbate their RA symptoms.

    So much is still to be understood about the causes of RA, but sometimes the timing of the onset of disease in someone's life does seem to suggest a link.

    If I do ever come across anything about allergy and RA I will post it on HU!

    Kind regards

    Victoria

  • Hi Tilda

    The difficulty would be that firstly, we don't record the information that people tell us about possible triggers for their RA in any way that could easily be extracted later and secondly that we take the information confidentially, so cannot pass it on. However, I am sure that any researchers working on potential triggers of RA would use patient populations either from hospitals or organisations such as ourselves (i.e. through a survey to members/volunteers).

    I certainly think hormonal changes play a huge part in conditions like RA, but it is still hard to understand, as for some people it comes on after childbirth, but it might be their 2nd child, so it is unclear why the 1st child didn't trigger the RA!

    It seems the more you look into this the more confusing it gets!

    Victoria

  • Yes totally agree about confusion growing rather than diminishing. Interestingly I had the most dreadful all over eczema during my first pregnancy followed by two more normal pregnancies with eczema hiding for 9 month duration so its not just RA that responds in this way to pregnancy hormones. I think its strong surges of oestrogen and progesterone that might either suppress because they are natural steroids, or trigger - depending how the body copes very much as Earthwitch was saying about allergic responses generally in a question re skin problems. I once had a allergic terrible reaction to a new kitten despite having had a cat for many years. The GP who put me straight into hospital with blood poisoning explained later that each animal gives off different feremones (sp?!) so its very possible to be allergic to one animal but be fine with another of the same species. Weird and in fathomable really - like life!

    I hope the Vit D you absorbed on honeymoon (and much else besides!) serves you very well over this winter anyway - its shaping up to be a harsh one I think! Tilda

  • Thanks Tilda

    People struggled to believe I'd been in Hawaii, as I came back with so little tan! Hopefully I did still get the vitamin D, I'm just not one for sun-soaking!

    I didn't know that about pets. I'd assumed that people would be allergic to all or no cats. How interesting!

    On the subject of pets, I've just seen the photo of your gorgeous puppy by the way. Adorable!

    Kind regards

    Victoria

  • Congraulations on your wedding and dream honeymoon

  • Thank you Summer, that's very kind of you!

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