I have mentioned here before that my mom’s rheumatoid arthritis was most obvious in her hands. Did you know that “arthritis hands” are practically famous? This brings me to week eight (and all caught up) in my series on “42 things you might not know about arthritis”.
There is an awesome community collage project called Show Us Your Hands! that was inspired by a blogger superhero named Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy, who wrote that he is proud of his hands for what they have endured. It has grown into an international awareness movement that is helping to unite and inspire people with inflammatory types of arthritis. As the project says, “Inflammatory arthritis hands are a visible sign of the enormous strength of people who experience so much pain, that their hands are literally being pulled out of shape.”
It works something like this: rheumatoid arthritis affects the cells that lubricate and line joints. This tissue becomes inflamed and swollen, and the swollen tissues stretch the supporting structures of the joints, such as ligaments and tendons. As the support structures stretch out, the joints become deformed and unstable.
I don’t think I have any pictures of my mom’s hands. Heck, I hardly have any pictures of my mom. But if you look at the hundreds of photos in the interactive collage, you’ll see what arthritis hands look like, and that there’s whole online community where people with inflammatory arthritis can support each other. I wish my mom had known that. In her own way, she was proud of her hands too.
Did you know that sports injuries can contribute to osteoarthritis, particularly when we don’t take the time to let them heal? Referred to as secondary osteoarthritis, it creeps up in joints that have been damaged by a previous injury. It’s common in professional athletes (such as hockey and football players), but it can happen in anyone.
Although it’s important to remember that exercise and activity is good for us, we do need to take care of ourselves. This Arthritis Society video tells the stories of two ordinary people who learned through experience how osteoarthritis can develop from sports injuries that aren’t fully treated. For all my hockey peeps out there, I’m talking to you too! If you don’t take care of yourself, who will?
Welcome to the latest belated instalment of ’42 things you might not know about arthritis’! Did you know that women are more likely to suffer from arthritis than men? In Canada, an estimated 64% of those diagnosed with arthritis are women. And according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, most types of arthritis are more common in women. What’s even more interesting is that some research is suggesting that the course of rheumatoid arthritis is significantly worse in women than it is in men.
This article in the journal The Rheumatologist describes the state of play in a lot more detail, and ultimately concludes that the differences may not be as profound as some of the literature suggests. But the biggest take away for me is that there do seem to be some differences, and this could have significant implications for treatment options. It is now understood that early treatment of RA is critical. If science is starting to find that some treatments are more likely to be successful for women versus men, that could make a huge difference for everyone who is trying to get their disease under control as early as possible. At worst, I can only jump to the conclusion that this merits more study.
In my last post, I talked about different treatment options that can help to slow, or even stop, the damage caused by certain types of arthritis. These therapies can make a huge difference in the lives of people with arthritis, but did you know that the side effects also pack a mean punch? This is week five of ‘things you might not know about arthritis’.
One of the last medications that my mom tried was methotrexate, which is a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) that can be taken either as a pill or by injection. Methotrexate is only taken once a week, and doctors recommend that it be taken on a “less demanding day” because some people feel unwell for up to 24-48 hours after taking it — such as headaches, feeling tired, nausea, or loss of appetite. Additional effects are numerous, although rare, and include everything from increased sun sensitivity to hair loss to liver damage.
My mom didn’t talk to me very much about her medication, and to be honest, I rarely asked. We lived 350 km apart, and so I didn’t see her day-to-day struggles first hand. When we spoke, she wanted to talk about happier things. We only started to talk about methotrexate after she started to experience a host of other health complications that landed her in the hospital for her 61st birthday. Her problems were ultimately chalked up to an inappropriate combination of meds that threw her blood counts into complete disarray and caused her to feel terrible all the time, all of which happened after her doctor increased her dosage of methotrexate to help address the progression of her rheumatoid arthritis. She eventually got things sorted out, but only after months of juggling pills and feeling awful — awful from the side effects of her meds, and awful from the pain and inflammation of RA while she waited for the meds to do their job. Rock, meet hard place.
I know this doesn’t reflect everyone’s experience. I also have no doubt that methotrexate would have helped my mom much more if it had been available earlier in her life. Nevertheless, it speaks volumes to me that this treatment is one of the best options available, given what she had to go through to make it work. It may well be effective, but at a cost. And it isn’t as easy as just remembering to take a few pills.
I wish I had asked more questions and showed more compassion. I wish she had told me more, so that I could have shaken off the assumptions I carried for many years just because they were never challenged. But I understand better now, and I hope you do too. Cheers.
This is week three of ‘things you might not know about arthritis‘, which means there are only 40 weeks left until the Lausanne marathon! In turn, this means that I am on the verge of complete panic about my ability to train well, owing to an annoying foot thingy that I’ll tell you about another day. For today, I wanted to tell you – in case you didn’t know – that arthritis ain’t cheap.
Earlier this week, I read an unnerving news story about a study which says that one in 10 Canadians have trouble paying for their prescription medication. The study points out that when patients are unable to afford their medications, it can lead to higher costs down the road for the health care system. That was a stark reminder for me about the cost of arthritis, not just in terms of the health effects it has on those who have the disease (and their families), but of the economic cost to society.
In late 2011, the Arthritis Alliance of Canada released a study which reported that arthritis is the most common cause of disability in Canada, and has a significant impact on costs to both the public health care system and the economy. The study estimates that osteoarthritis (OA) – the most prevalent form of the disease – and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) cost the Canadian economy $33 billion through direct healthcare expenses and indirect lost productivity and taxes. CBC did this report when the report was released last year, if you’re not inclined to read the whole study.
Perhaps more importantly, the study also clearly states that “Without a doubt, arthritis’ greatest burden is on the personal lives of those living with the condition and on the lives of their families.” There’s no doubt in my mind that this is true, and it reminds me how important it is to share information, so we can try to change that. Thanks for reading 🙂
Welcome to week two of ‘things you might not know about arthritis‘!
Did you know that arthritis isn’t just an ‘old person’s disease’. According to the Arthritis Society, arthritis is one of the most common chronic illnesses affecting children and affects 1 in 1,000 Canadian children under the age of 16. That’s a lot of kids.
Kids with arthritis face unique challenges compared to adults. This story describes some of those challenges, including the very real problem that some people don’t believe kids when they say they have arthritis. It also describes an awesome summer camp organized by the Arthritis Society, where kids spend time with other kids just like them who are learning to manage the disease.
In this video, Amanda describes some of the treatment that kids like her go through.
And in this video, you can learn more about how kids’ lives are affected by living with arthritis, in their own words – which are more powerful than anything I could write. It’s worth taking a few moments to watch, and to remember that arthritis affects more people than we realize – both young and old, and in between. They all need your support.
That’s it for this week. Check back next week – you might learn something new!
Since I started my Joints in Motion campaign, several people have asked me what else they can do to support my campaign, in addition to making a financial donation. What an awesome question! (And one that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought to write about, since I’m not very good at asking for things.)
Here are few ideas:
Tell a friend. Better yet, tell more than one! You can share the links to my online donation page, to this blog, or to my Facebook page. The more people who know, the more people who can help! And then they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on … anyone else remember that commercial?
Tell your company. Businesses can donate too! Tax receipts are issued for all donations of more than $15. Some companies even have matching donation programs where they will match a personal contribution that you make. Cool eh?
Make suggestions. There are limits to my creativity, and I would welcome your fundraising ideas. Maybe you have something you could donate for a silent auction? Or perhaps you have an idea for a special event to raise money? (That doesn’t mean you have to help me organize it, but that would be cool too!) Some options might be more practical for me than others, but it all starts with a gem of an idea.
Spread the word. My Joints in Motion journey is about raising awareness as well as funds. Share what you know about arthritis, especially if you learn something new, so others can learn too.
Be supportive. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. A well timed hug or a kind word means more than you can know 🙂
Remember that I appreciate every contribution that you make, big or small. It all makes a difference. Thank you!