Cricoarytenoid Arthritis in Rheumatoid Arthritis, Part 2

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koy and roo Xmas 05This post is part of an ongoing series on the so-called “complications” of Rheumatoid Arthritis called RA Is Complicated: “Complications” of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Cricoarytenoid Arthritis is a secondary Rheumatoid Arthritis symptom

Rheumatoid Arthritis attacked my vocal cords during that first year of this “flare” (now almost 4 years old). Out of the blue, my voice would disappear. For hours or days, I could only whisper. But, even on good days, I could no longer sing…

It was traumatic to lose the ability to sing. I remember barely being able to walk, struggling to get to a pew at church, and feeling sad that I could not raise my arms as we sang songs of praise. And then one day, I could not sing either.

As the room full of people rejoiced, the words of the song stung my heart: “…we raise our voices… we raise our hands…“ I could do neither. I could barely move.

I felt the Lord speak into my heart that He was aware of me. I knew He was satisfied with the only offering that I could bring – a broken body and silent praise. I sat perfectly still and wept.

More important things to worry about than the hoarseness as an RA symptom…

I have done a lot of reading about Rheumatoid Arthritis. Somewhere, I had found “hoarseness of RA” on a list of Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms. So, I chalked it up to the weirdness of “this monster,” as WarmSocks called RA in a comment yesterday. I let it go. I had a lot more urgent symptoms with which to be concerned.

Several months after I’d lost my voice the first time, I experienced another symptom of cricoarytenoid arthritis (CA). One evening, my kids jumped for water and prayed for help because I could not breathe. Yes, I was scared.

For about a minute, it was as if I were choking or someone’s hands were around my throat. Then, my throat relaxed a little. Gradually, I began to breathe normally.

This scenario was repeated numerous times. I did not relate this breathing problem to the RA. Would you? However, I kept up my reading and research on RA

One afternoon last year, I was sitting at the computer, researching for my RA 101. I was trying to understand the ways that Rheumatoid Arthritis attacks the lungs. I called out to my kids, “Come quick!” For the first time, I had stumbled upon an article on CA and  dyspnea (breathing difficulty) related to RA. After that, I was like a dog with a bone, digging up answers.

Some degree of vocal cord immobility is a common result of cricoarytenoid RA. It can lead to hoarseness, loss of voice, or trouble breathing. You can read more about that on yesterday’s post.  

Maybe we ought to categorize this post under “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”

Funny thing happened: now that I knew what I was looking for, I kept running across people who had been affected by cricoarytenoid RA. Some were searching for an answer to their “hoarseness” problem. Others had been damaged in some way because it had taken too long to get answers. (One example: read the Health Central discussion which took place earlier this year. The woman’s cousin lives with a permanent tracheotomy since her case was so severe. You may recognize one of the names in the comments section.)

Eventually, I was scared enough to see a doctor about my vocal cords. I called the office of an ENT who had treated 5 members of my family. I asked a nurse to ask the doctor whether he treats vocal cord immobility caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis. I would be happy if they’d call me back to let me know. She put me on hold, came back in 5 minutes, and said this: “He said, ‘Tell her if she can’t breathe, cut a trache.’” Sad, but true.

Since I know someone will ask, I’ll tell you that lately my voice is strong. You would laugh if you could hear how loudly I sing in my car. I’m not wasting a minute of it.

Stay tuned for more on this topic and other “Complications” of RA. Cricoarytenoid Arthritis, Part 3.

Recommended reading:

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2009 at 7:23 am and is filed under Don't miss this!, RA Education. 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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