Book review: What to Do When the Doctor Says Its Rheumatoid Arthritis

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What to Do When the Doctor Says Its Rheumatoid Arthritis

A primer on Rheumatoid Disease by Harry D Fischer, MD and Winnie Yu

Book review - What to Do When the Doctor Says Its Rheumatoid ArthritisA Rheumatoid Arthritis information primer of sorts – What to Do When the Doctor Says Its Rheumatoid Arthritis is the best primer on Rheumatoid Arthritis that I have seen. I wish I’d read it before I was diagnosed. Although I doubt I would have understood RA the way that I do now, it would have been an asset in navigating that first year.

Don’t tell anyone my secret: Since I hate to be negative, I have returned most RA books to the library un-reviewed. I loved them that much.

Included in What to Do When the Doctor Says It’s Rheumatoid Arthritis are mini-primers on all of these juicy topics: anatomy of joints, the disease process of Rheumatoid Arthritis, information about pain relief, disease modifying medicines / DMARD’s, surgeries for RA, alternative treatments for RA, and emotional support needed for living with RA. They are easy to read.

A cool feature: each chapter ends with a profile page. They are like mini-blogs about real patients. The only thing better than those are real patient blogs.

Wisdom from Dr. Fischer about Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis

One particular statement in What to Do When the Doctor Says Its Rheumatoid Arthritis would be extremely valuable for rheumatologists to read. He elucidates the purpose of the American College of Rheumatology criteria which are frequently used for clinical Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis. ACR criteria can be helpful in making a diagnosis, though some doctors can detect RA even if a patient doesn’t fully meet these guidelines… In fact, the ACR originally created the criteria to provide uniform research standards…”

A couple of useful tips for living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Dr. Fisher suggests various specialists which will probably be needed to facilitate the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis such as a good pharmacist and ophthalmologist.
  • He says you should get copies of reports from specialists that you see for RA. (I say get them for all docs, but good for him anyway!) Don’t forget labs and hospitalizations in the RA volume that you are compiling.
  • He includes a few tips for managing life with the chronic pain, fatigue, and disability of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I felt he understood our plight somewhat. However, when you are in too much pain to dress yourself, “Avoid ironing” only goes so far.
  • Eat as well as possible.
  • This is the first RA book I have seen with a section on the importance of rest! On page 103, the doctor explains that patients may need 10 hours of rest while most people need 8 hours. He also recommends naps.

The inevitable topic: Exercise and RA

Of course, the inevitable topic is mentioned. Page 95: “Gradually, medical experts began to experiment with exercise in patients whose RA was under control. Their research found that not only could these patients do strengthening exercises, but they also actually derived a lot of benefits from movement… At the same time, it is important to rest during a flare up and to help your joints stabilize… Every patient is different. Some may be able to do more. Others may require more rest.”

I wish everyone were so reasonable. Did you notice these stipulations: “whose RA is under control,” “rest during flare,” and “every patient is different”? This is the kind of logical thinking which would lead one to say something like this about Rheumatoid Arthritis and exercise: “If you can, you should; if you can’t, you shouldn’t.”

My objection with this book

Too many times, the author’s tone reminded me that the he does not have RA. Too many times, the expression was used “aches and pains” of Rheumatoid Arthritis. There are much more clear descriptions of the sharp and horrific pain and disability of RA than “aches and pains.” That actually sounds more like what I had before RA.

Why write that we might “pass off achy joints as old age” on page 23? Rheumatoid Arthritis does not typically begin during old age; why would a younger person think that the pain is “old age”? Besides, if Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms amounted to just “achy joints,” it would not be a big enough deal to inject oneself with methotrexate. I could put up with “achy joints.” Again, my complaint is that the author makes it too clear that he does not understand what it is like to live with the severe pain and disability of RA.

What to Do When the Doctor Says Its Rheumatoid Arthritis – Thumbs up

I have very few arguments with the authors. All of the information found in What to Do When the Doctor Says Its Rheumatoid Arthritis is available free online. But you would have to sift through mountains of baloney to find it. And the book is handy, reliable, and well presented. I recommend it.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009 at 7:05 am and is filed under RA Research, Resources, and Rheumatology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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