Tuesday, October 25, 2011


For those who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, a mutiny overtakes their bodies. First Captain AID (Autoimmune Disease) invades and then he recruits the immune system to rebel against the body.

He sends some of the immune scurvy dogs to attack the joints. They run to any joint they can find and pull out miniature jackhammers and begin hammering away at the joint until they have destroyed it leaving the person in pain with joints that no longer function correctly.

Next he sends some of his minions out to search and seize every vestige of energy they can find. They scour the body and hunt for any signs of energy then when they find the tiniest bit, the lock it down and throw it overboard. With no energy, fighting this nasty pirate becomes even harder.

Captain AID isn't happy with just stealing energy and destroying joints so he sends out more of his team to suck up and destroy blood cells leaving the body anemic and even more tired. 

Sometimes the old Captain decides joint damage isn't enough and he sends the mutinous team to the heart, lungs, eyes, and even ears causing even more damage.

As if this isn't enough, Captain AID often calls in his pals, Captain Sjogren and Captain Raynaud, to wreak their havoc on the body.

Captain Sjogren sends his crew to tap dance in the joints. They jump in right next to AID's crew so one team jackhammers and the other tap dances. 

Next Captain Sjogren sends part of his crew to all of the moisture producing glands to stop them up. This leaves the eyes gritty and sandy feeling and can cause corneal abrasions. His havoc doesn't stop there, when he blocks the salivary glands, the mouth becomes as dry as a desert wind.

Captain Raynaud joins the fight. He causes vasospasms in the hands, feet, ears, nose and even nipples. The vasospasms result in very cold extremities and color changes. The extremities can become numb and tingle. In extreme cases, the extremities can ulcerate.

Once the mutiny is identified, we enlist the help of Captain Rheum. He gives us the guns to fight this mutinous crew. We bombard them with guns like Prednisone, Methotrexate, Arava, Remicaide, Enbrel, Humira just to name a few. 

Using these big guns exhausts the body even more but they are necessary so we continue to fight the fight and use the big guns so we can prevent even further damage from the Captain and his minions. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

These Hands.....

Our hands are in constant motion. They draw, paint, write, type, touch, feel and even express love. But for someone with RA, those 
Courtesy luigi diamanti
hands may become stiff, red, inflamed and painful. At times, they may "lock-up".

We've all seen someone with advanced RA damage in the hands causing severe deformities but what about those who live with RA day to day? It's not always easy to recognize "RA hands".  In fact very often the person with RA hears, "but you don't look sick" or even from the medical community "I don't see any signs of RA in your hands."

Someone who is on aggressive treatment for their disease, may not have obvious damage. I asked several of my friends who suffer from RA to send me pictures of their hands. Some of the pictures are of the same hands on different days but they are all photos of hands affected by RA.

 No severe deformity but notice the red knuckles on the fingers and across the top of the hand. You can also see swelling in those knuckles.

This hand also doesn't have the severe damage that we often associate with RA and in this photo there is not a lot of redness but notice the swelling across the knuckles at the top of the hand.

This hand shows some curving of the fingers toward the outside of the hand and it shows some swelling.

This hand shows some curvature toward the outside of the hand and the pinkie finger doesn't straighten. There is also some swelling across the knuckles and a little bit of redness.

 This hand shows some deformity in the thumb. Notice how it curves outward. Also the pinkie finger doesn't straighten. It also shows some swelling at the knuckles but not a lot of redness.

 This hand has some redness and in joints and swelling in the knuckles.
 Slight redness and some swelling in the fingers and hands.

 Some slight curving in the fingers, mild swelling and slight redness.
 Beginning deformity in pinkie finger.
 Mild swelling, redness and some curvature.
 Swelling in some of the knuckles
 Some curvature toward the outside - not much redness or swelling
 Swelling and redness in all of the knuckles and the top of the hand.
Swelling and redness with some curvature of the fingers.
 These photographs depict real patients living with the day to day pain of rheumatoid arthritis. None of these patients show signs of extensive deformity caused by the RA but that doesn't lessen the pain and decreased ability associated with the disease.

The redness and swelling depicted is an indicator of inflammation. When the hands are inflamed, they are painful, stiff and difficult to use. The inflammation is a sign of joint damage. This damage can lead to the gnarled hands that don't function.

Hand involvement is only a small part of the damage this disease does. It affects not only joints but also the heart, lungs, eyes, hearing, ribs, blood vessels, and blood cells.

While the person suffering from RA may not "look sick", he is. RA is an autoimmune disease that affects every aspect of the sufferer's life.