Just Arthritis – NOT

Before a diagnosis of RA, it’s common for friends to know you haven’t been feeling well.  If they’re good friends, after you’ve been to the doctor they inquire about the results.  For some inexplicable reason, when we say, “The doctor diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis,” listeners only hear four of those five words.  “Rheumatoid” seems to be inaudible when spoken.

Fortunately, we don’t have to remain stuck with the frustration that occurs when people hear “arthritis” without comprehending “rheumatoid” and respond, “Oh, I have that in my neck/knee/little finger.”  Usually, I don’t think my health is anyone’s business, but good friends are an exception.  If I know someone well enough to tell them that I have RA, then I know them well enough to explain why RA is not “just arthritis.”

When people respond as if I’m discussing osteoarthritis, I’ve had very good luck smiling and saying, “Oh, you’re thinking of OA.  There are nearly 100 different types of arthritis.  I have RA.”

It’s quite simple to quickly explain that OA is what people have when a joint wears out due to overuse, but RA is completely different.  RA occurs when the immune system goes postal and starts attacking multiple joints and organs, too.

I remember a few years ago my riding instructor shrugging off my stiffness, saying that we all feel stiff sometimes.  I waited a day, then sent email to explain the situation:

“Three years ago I was diagnosed with a disease that means my immune system is overactive.  It doesn’t distinguish between my body and foreign invaders.  The immune system is supposed to attack germs so that we don’t get sick.  My immune system does that, but it also attacks the synovial fluid surrounding my joints, the enthesis (where tendons attach), my skin, and pretty much anything else it feels like attacking without giving me any say in the matter…

While RA can cause OA, RA is not “just arthritis.”  There is a huge difference, and I’ve had tremendous response when giving people a brief explanation of the distinction between the two.

9 thoughts on “Just Arthritis – NOT

  1. We’ll just have to educate them one at a time. Your method sounds good.

    I am just so tired of people doing that and you just can’t get away from them because they are your friends and workmates

  2. You have said a mouthful. Especially the response of “oh I have it in my knee” balderdash. I really like your answer – sometimes I say the dreaded rheumatoid. Sometimes the response is “Oh!” and I know they are thinking “poor thing”. I am not a poor things, it is just something I have, not who I am. But like you, I don’t think it is really anyone else’s business.

  3. When I was in my 20’s I found it was easier for people to understand that ra was a whole different animal from oa. Now that I am in my 50’s it’s another story. Now everyone with a sore foot or knee is sure they know the whole ra experience. At this point when they say they know how I feel, I just tell them I’m sorry they are stiff and leave it at that. Once in a blue moon I’ll run into someone who I’ll explain things to. Now that most people have aches and pain It feels like people will think I am exaggerating now that they think they know how it feels.

  4. Pingback: WAAD Blog Carnival #2: “But It’s Just Arthritis” | Systemically Connected

  5. Pingback: Just Arthritis – NOT | KStew Vents about RA

  6. I only tell them I have an auto-immune disease. People are less inclided to form an opinion, they at least ask what it means!

  7. For sure a big difference between RA and OA. Some things are similar..both involve inflammation. I agree..sometime we can still wear the diagnosis but the outcomes and results may not reflect the same as predicted. I always say believe in possibilities and try every natural alternative — especially things like eating clean and figuring out what foods you need to avoid.

    • That used to be my philosophy, but I’ve discovered that my definition of natural doesn’t necessarily match up with what some snake-oil salesmen define as natural. There are some supposedly “natural” alternative treatments that have been examined scientifically and found wanting. I hate to see people wasting their hard-earned money on things that are proven to not help (and in some cases have been proven to be harmful). I’ll all for things like eating well and avoiding problematic foods 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s