Response to the Clueless

There’s a limit to the number of times one can be polite when RA is equated to a sore shoulder, or stiff hands, or a bum knee.  It gets old hearing, “Oh, I have that.  My doctor gave me a prescription for motrin.”  One time I snapped back, “If your doctor said that ibuprofen without any DMARDs is the standard of treatment for RA, then he’s incompetent.  You should be looking for a new doctor.”

It relieved my frustration with the RA=OA myth, but somehow I suspect it wasn’t the best way that I could have handled the situation.  Another time (early on) an aunt knew I’d been to the doctor and asked how I was doing.  She didn’t deserve to have me explode at her, but that’s what she got.  I have RA and I’m mighty tired of people not knowing the difference between OA and RA!!!  Wonderful, forgiving person that she is, she gently let me know that she has a friend with RA and does know what it is.  She’s seen the pain that her friend lives with every day.

That got me thinking.  I’m not crazy about sharing my medical information with anyone, but if nobody ever tells people about RA, the disease will remain invisible.  Determined to come up with a better response, I started experimenting.  The poor, unsuspecting guinea pigs in my experiment were those innocents who happened to bring up the subject.

One reply seems to work best.  Instead of acting like people are stupid, I’ve started using the RA/OA confusion as a quick teaching opportunity.  It works quite well when I quickly explain, “You’re talking about OA.  There are actually over 100 different kinds of arthritis.  RA is different.”

This response is short and accurate.  It doesn’t overwhelm the person with TMI, and isn’t rude.  It leaves the door open for future education if the person wants to know more.

  “I see food”  is not the same as, “There’s some seafood.” 



4 thoughts on “Response to the Clueless

  1. That is an excellent idea! I’m going to use it too, if you don’t mind. I’m so sick of hearing “I have arthritis, too! My finger hurts!” If you don’t understand RA or don’t know what to say, just ask me.

    I told a new-ish friend about my defibrillator the other day. I was nervous to open up about it, but he said, “wow – what is that like?” I think it was the perfect response.

  2. Have used that one before, but it doesn’t go further than that. I have aunts who think “oh, everyone’s got a touch of arthritis.” I don’t even think showing them my arm bone sticking way on top of my wrist did much to make it sink in with them. Though it kind of grosses others out. Those who don’t think it’s some huge ganglion anyway.

  3. I think the trouble is in the name. Type 1 Diabetics have it the same way. Their disease is more severe and has different treatments than Type 2, but all people hear is the same name. People assume the word “arthritis” always means the same thing.

    • Good point. For a while I said “an autoimmune disease” to completely avoid the word “arthritis.”

      I know a little about diabetes, but hadn’t thought of the similarity of same-name for different problems. My dad had Type2; my mom has Type1. Since adult-onset Type 1 is so rare, people (even doctors) assume that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Mom was diagnosed when hospitalized for ketoacidosis, wore an insulin pump, the whole shebang. Now does insulin injections, was hospitalized again for DKA last year. According to her endocrinologist, it’s Type 1. Things would be so much clearer if there wasn’t confusion with the names.

      Different diseases should have different names!

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