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.”