Tag Archives: Rheumatoid arthritis

March is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month!

Did you know that March is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month? I have mentioned here before that Kids Get Arthritis Too.  I have also posted about how important it is, especially for rheumatoid arthritis, to get diagnosed early.  But did you also know that the same is true for kids?

As part of its awareness campaign for Juvenile Arthritis, the Arthritis Society has shared this information about a study by the Canadian Alliance of Pediatric Rheumatology Investigators (CAPRI), which found that children will see at least three health practitioners and wait four to five months after their symptoms begin before being correctly diagnosed and receiving optimal care.  One of the reasons is thought to be the overall lack of awareness that kids can get arthritis too.

Other interesting facts about JA from the Arthritis Society: JA is one of the more common disorders resulting in chronic disability in children and adolescents in Canada.  Altogether, approximately 61,500 Canadian toddlers, youths and young adults live with the intense pain and disability of arthritis. That’s at least one case for every school.

For more information about symptoms and treatment, visit here.  And to read stories from families of kids living with arthritis, you can visit this Facebook page, and click “Like” to spread the word.

Cheers 🙂

Show Us Your Hands!

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.

Cheers 🙂

Battle of the sexes

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.

Who knew?

Rock versus hard place

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.

Hurry up and wait!

I’m late! Indeed, I am overdue in delivering week four of ‘things you might not know’!  This won’t actually shock anyone who knows me.  I’m always late paying parking tickets, and it’s virtually guaranteed that I will never return a library book on time.  I’m also behind on my running program, but that’s a story for another day.  Alas, this week, you’ll get back-to-back posts to make up for my tardiness.

Sometimes, it really doesn’t pay to be late, particularly when it comes to being diagnosed with arthritis. I have mentioned here before, inflammatory arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) needs to be treated early and aggressively.  But did you know that some of the most effective medications can take weeks or even months to show results, and multiple medications might be needed to control the disease?  Here’s a great analogy from an Arthritis Society publication:

“Think of arthritis like a fire in the joints.  Imagine there was a fire in your kitchen. If you left it burning, it would eventually destroy the kitchen and likely spread to other rooms in the house. The same is true for rheumatoid arthritis. If you leave the fire of arthritis burning, it will eventually damage the bones and cartilage. The idea is to get the fire put out as quickly as possible to prevent the joints from becoming damaged. Again, if your kitchen was on fire, it might take two or three fire trucks with their hoses to put the fire out. The same is true for arthritis. It might take two or three different medications to put the fire out.”

There are many promising treatments available that can slow, or sometimes even stop, the progression of the disease.  Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are a class of medications used to treat inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. DMARDs slow down the biologic processes that cause the persistent inflammation (pain, swelling and stiffness) in the joints. DMARDs are important because they help to prevent damage to the joint.  (Unfortunately, DMARDs cannot fix joint damage that has already occurred.)  The challenge is, DMARDs generally work well but they take time to work. Most DMARDs will start to work in about six to 12 weeks, but some may take longer – up to three or four months.

Likewise, biologics are a class of medications specially designed to treat inflammatory types of arthritis.  Like DMARDs, biologics are used to suppress inflammation and help prevent damage to the joint, and the two can be combined.  But biologics also take time to work. Some people may notice the effects of the medication  within days or weeks, but others may take three to six months to feel the effects.

Six months is a long time to wait if your house is on fire.  That’s why early diagnosis and treatment is so important.  It’s also why continued research into arthritis treatment is necessary, hopefully to develop new treatment options that will work faster, to help minimize the amount of permanent damage that people suffer.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for the next instalment.  I won’t make you wait so long this time 🙂

Did you know? Arthritis ain’t cheap.

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 🙂

The answer to the ultimate question

Of course, the answer is 42.  If you’re not a rabid fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you can learn more about it here and here.  For the purpose of this post, I just accept that the answer really is 42, at least for today anyway.

Clearly, 42 is the number of full kilometres in a full marathon.  (No disrespect intended to those last .2 kms — I hear they’re a really bugger.)  More importantly, today marks 42 weeks until I run a marathon in Lausanne, Switzerland!  In honour of this quirky fact, I am launching 42 (.2) things you probably don’t know about arthritis.  Each week for the next 42 weeks, I’ll post something new, as part of my goal to raise awareness about arthritis.

The first thing you might not know is that there actually more than 100 kinds of arthritis.  These include everything from relatively mild forms of tendinitis (like tennis elbow) and bursitis, to crippling and systemic forms such as rheumatoid arthritis.  There also also pain syndromes like fibromyalgia and arthritis-related disorders, such as lupus, that involve every part of the body.  There are other forms of the disease, such as gout, that almost nobody connects with arthritis, and other conditions – like osteoarthritis – that many people think is the only form of the disease.  The common denominator for all these conditions is joint and musculoskeletal pain, which is why they are grouped together as ‘arthritis.’

With all these different forms, it’s quite likely that someone you know is directly affected by some type of arthritis. They might not talk about it and you might not even know they have it, but for those people who have some form of arthritis, it’s very real and can have a huge impact on their lives.

That’s it for this week.  Check back next week – you might learn something new!