8 Rheumatoid Arthritis Myths
- 8 Rheumatoid Arthritis MythsIf you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a good first step is to learn as much as you can about your disease. In addition to understanding RA better, you may be surprised at how many myths exist. Many people still think that all arthritis is the same, or that only old people get RA. Debunking common myths will help you manage your condition and communicate your experience to your loved ones.
- Myth 1: All Arthritis Is the SameAbsolutely not. Rheumatoid arthritis is very different from osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis. While almost everyone gets some wear and tear that leads to osteoarthritis over time, RA affects only about 1% of adult Americans. Osteoarthritis affects your joints, but RA is a systemic disease that can affect your joints, heart, lungs, eyes, and blood vessels. The two are very different diseases.
- Myth 2: RA Is for Old FolksPlenty of older people are living with rheumatoid arthritis, but RA usually starts in middle age. The average age to be diagnosed with RA is early fifties. For about one-third of people, RA is diagnosed after age 60. But older teens, people in their twenties, and even children can also develop RA. Women get RA three times more frequently than men, and they are usually diagnosed between age 30 and 60. Men tend to get RA a little later in life than women.
- Myth 3: RA Runs in FamiliesAlthough the genes for RA are passed down through families, there is more to the disease than family history. You could inherit the genes but never get RA. You may not develop RA even if both your parents had it. Although doctors don't know exactly what causes RA, it's probably a combination of genes and events in your life that trigger the genes to become active. One theory is that certain viruses may cause RA, but more definitive research is needed.
- Myth 4: You Must Have Done Something to Cause RAThere is nothing you did to cause RA and no way you could have prevented it. RA is an autoimmune disease. That means that your body's defense system is not operating the way it should. Its job is to attack foreign invaders, like viruses and bacteria, but RA causes your immune system to mistakenly attack your joints and other parts of your body instead. Researchers are still trying to figure out all the reasons why some people get autoimmune diseases.
- Myth 5: If You Look Fine, You Must Be Doing WellOne of the big myths surrounding RA is that if you are not obviously in pain you must be okay. You may look fine and your joints may seem normal, but that doesn't mean you feel great. The fatigue from RA can be worse than the pain from RA. It's not like regular fatigue that goes away after you rest. When your arthritis flares up, you may feel exhausted and sore all over, even if you look fine. It's important for other people to understand the invisible symptoms of RA.
- Myth 6: The Best Thing to Do Is RestExercise may not seem like a great idea when you feel sore and tired, but studies show that one of the best ways to relieve these symptoms is to exercise regularly. Getting exercise can ease pain and stiffness, improve motion and flexibility, and boost your energy level. Although you may need to rest when your joints are actively swollen, most of the time rest is not the best strategy. Ask your doctor to help you find the level and type of exercise best for you.
- Myth 7: Disability Is InevitableNot true. New medications have changed the outlook for many people with RA. Called biologic agents, these treatments change the way your immune system functions. Doctors now know that treating RA early and aggressively is the best way to prevent disability. Advances in treatment have made it possible for people with RA to live full and active lives. Even newer medications are in development, and although there is still no cure, the future has never looked brighter.
- Myth 8: There Is Not Much You Can DoThere are many ways to better manage your disease. Learn as much as you can about RA, and work closely with your treatment team. Eat a heart-healthy diet, don't smoke, and stay at a healthy weight. Remember that having a disease like RA is stressful. Make sure you have ways to recognize and deal with stress. Don't be afraid to ask for help and emotional support. Managing RA is a job, but you don't have to do it alone.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Myths | 8 Rheumatoid Arthritis Myths