Do Men Get Rheumatoid Arthritis, Too?

men rheumatoid arthritis flag footballDo Guys Get RA Too?

I have always thought how wretched it is that Rheumatoid Arthritis comes along in the prime years of a woman’s life. She’s either chasing small children or climbing a career ladder. It is heartbreaking that at the time when life is the most demanding, she is disabled. There are no accommodations. No excuses. Nothing can rescue her. Pretty sad, huh?

And then one day, I saw a man who had the same RA that I had. My heart just broke. He stood up the way that I do, pushing off with the elbows. Then, he walked like I do: slow and awkward. So that’s why people stare.

I could overhear him talking with the nurse. He has a family. Oh, my gosh. Of course: he has a family to support. They are counting on him to go to work every single day. And he has no accommodations. No excuses. Nothing to rescue him.

Expectations will be difficult for him to meet – except when they are impossible. His disability may be more public. There may be shame and humiliation to go along with horror of the RA diagnosis.

Yes, women are more frequently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis than men—studies say 75-79% of RA patients are female. And many studies show that women even experience more severely active RA than men. But, men are less comfortable asking for help. And there is more shame for them in being weak. Certain serious “complications” of Rheumatoid Arthritis are more common in men, such as vasculitis.

The gender differences are more than skin deep. Men tend to have more involvement with larger joints. They are more likely to have heart damage from RA. But some studies show there may be fewer bone erosions and eye damage. Of course, no man or woman on earth wants to have Rheumatoid Arthritis, regardless of the where it hits.

NOTE: I would like to recommend some RA blogs which are written from a man’s viewpoint. If you’d like to hear how a man is fighting Rheumatoid Arthritis, check out these blogs: Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis and Dual Sport Life.  We will also discuss this on the Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior Facebook page.

So much for the battle between the sexes! Instead, we’ve got a real battle to fight against Rheumatoid Arthritis. This time, we are on the same side.

Recommended reading:

Kelly Young

Kelly Young is an advocate providing ways for patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. Through her writing, speaking, and use of social media, she is building a more accurate awareness of Rheumatoid disease aka Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creating ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and bringing recognition and visibility to the Rheumatoid patient journey. In 2009, Kelly created Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, a comprehensive website about RA of about 950 pages and writes periodically for other newsletters and websites. Kelly served on the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board. There are over 42,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook Fan page. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is the mother of five, a home-schooler, Bible teacher, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She has lived over nine years with unrelenting Rheumatoid disease. See also http://www.rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

30 thoughts on “Do Men Get Rheumatoid Arthritis, Too?

  • June 18, 2009 at 8:00 pm
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    Thank you for helping to add some light to the male experience of living with rheumatoid arthritis!

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  • June 18, 2009 at 8:16 pm
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    🙂 You are welcome, Guy.

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  • June 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm
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    Thanks Kelly for drawing attention to us guys!

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  • June 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm
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    Glad to do it. Not glad it needs to be done…

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  • July 9, 2009 at 7:40 pm
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    Kelly, I am one of the "lucky" guys. Why couldn't my luck have hit the lottery instead of RA? I say that I am determined not to let this disease get the best of me but the truth is it pushes me around than I would like to admit. It's hard to give up control of your life and things you enjoy doing but I'm slowly learning to accept it.

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  • July 9, 2009 at 9:39 pm
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    Hey tharr,
    So glad to have you aboard!

    Have you seen the "men's room" discussion tab on the FB page? For and about guys only. 😀

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  • September 13, 2009 at 10:24 pm
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    My speech is still out there for all to see if you search on youtube for “Memoirs of my Unwanted Guest”. I was just out of college at my first job in 1994 and I was diagnosed with RA. I had my wedding planned for later that year and this hit me. I was fortunate to work for 15 yrs and bring 3 beautiful children into the world with my more than supportive wife. Not only did I get the rare RA for men but at the end of 2008 I get the even rarer rheumatoid vasculitis – the stats on getting this are even smaller. Needless to say I went onto disability this year and it’s been an adjustment – trying to find my identity again, find my purpose, find my way to provide. Well, I am now the child taxi, homework manager and house cleaning director.

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  • September 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm
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    Hey Rob,
    I have been telling people about your speech since you posted it on my FB page. We really do need to fight on the same side now. So many of the things I’ve written come to mind as I hear your stories, making me realize we are dealing with many of the same things…

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  • September 14, 2009 at 6:50 am
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    I feel the same way when I see the things u write

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  • September 25, 2009 at 3:34 pm
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    Hi Kelly. I’ve just discovered your blog, and I’m letting it in my favorites.

    I’m just another RA guy (since 2005), in my 40’s, married and father of five children.
    Can you imagine a guy like me quiting my job due to RA?… I just can’t, and every day I try to forget the pain to do my Job….

    Thanks a lot for this post… I will join you on facebook.

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    • September 25, 2009 at 3:51 pm
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      Thanks, HV
      I also have 5 children. They need us, don’t they?
      Yeah, 2005 was an interesting year. There are a lot in that club. Welcome aboard!

      Reply
  • November 30, 2009 at 1:27 am
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    I am scared out of my mind that I am just going to get back more normal blood work……Meanwhile I am Getting weker and really fear going to sleep because I do no know what tomorrow holds for me. Plus the pain is becoming unbearable. I need help finding a rheum doc that will try and help me in the Chattanooga or Atlanta area. Giving up hope! If it is RA or LUPUS OR whatever the hell I just need an answer and a doctor who wont pass me off as crazy because my symtoms dont fit into his normal expectations.I suffer and I cannot continue to do this

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    • November 30, 2009 at 7:26 am
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      Eddie,
      Sorry you are having a hard time getting a diagnosis. Keep a good record of your symptoms and bloodtests to bring to your appointments. You can post a request for info on the Facebook page; about 600 people will see that. Maybe someone will have a suggestion for you. Did you see the suggestion posted yesterday of a Rheum. doc someone knows?
      Good luck!

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    • December 12, 2010 at 9:21 am
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      Eddie, I’m in the Atlanta area. My Rheum doc is fabulous. I highly recommend him – and if you don’t “mesh” with him, his wife is also a Rheum doc and is in practice with him! Hays Wilson at Piedmont Rheumatology in the Piemont Hospital complex. There is a major wait for new patient appts, but that’s the same for ALL the Rheum docs in the entire 15 county metro area! I’ve been going to him for about 15 years, now. His father (deceased, unfortunately) was my mother’s Rheum doc. So I have stayed with the family, so to speak!
      Here’s praying for you to get a diagnosis. And that it is something easily treatable!
      Cheerio!
      Elizabeth

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  • December 3, 2009 at 11:36 pm
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    Reading this makes me feel a lot better. I haven’t met anyone else with RA that’s close to my age or a guy. I’m 23 and I’ve had RA for about a year. It feels like it’s getting worst but I’m getting treated and working through it the best I can. It helps knowing that I’m not the only one fighting.

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  • June 29, 2010 at 6:39 pm
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    Hi Kevin, reading this makes me feel a lot better too (thank you once again, Kelly). I was 27 when dx with RA (3 years ago) so I know a little about how you feel. Mine got worse/ is getting worse, and getting treatment is important. But what’s helped me the most is finding others who are going through this hell also…Kelly has a great forum here, I hope you are still reading her blog, as I’ve benefited greatly from it and the warriors on here… All the best to you, don’t know if you’ll read this or not, but here’s my FB profile page, friend me if you like, always looking to add friends who understand what I go through.
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/Bubbajr60

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  • December 11, 2010 at 10:10 am
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    My Dad’s father had RA. He was a tall, muscular man when I was small. By the time I turned 16 and had the privledge of taking my grandparents to Dr. appoinments so I could practice driving, I was also interested in medicine and would go in for his appoinments. I remember the nurse taking the reusable neelde out of the little boiler they used to sterilize, and he drawing up the gold shots he recieved. Also remember shopping of enteric coated Aspirin for him so it would not affect his stomach.
    By the time he was 75 in the late 70’s he was a good six inches shorter, he had nodules on his hands and elbows the size of walnuts, and he could bearly walk. He passed away from his RA (heart problems) in 1979. I never remembered him complaining about his pain, he would heat up some camphor oil and put it on his hands and elbows. He always did that before he played the piano (he was a great jazz pianist).
    My Dad never had RA, but his brother had spondilosing ankylotis

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    • December 11, 2010 at 10:34 am
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      Thank you Laurie for sharing about your grandfather. That’s amazing he could play piano! :yes:

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  • December 11, 2010 at 10:38 am
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    My dad was suddenly hit with RA after a bad ear infection at age 62. He did not ever respond to treatment. He suffered for 11 years but ultimately died from COPD and cancer. But I think it was the RA that made him the most miserable.

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  • December 11, 2010 at 11:06 am
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    Kelly – You are an angel. Thank you for your work. @ Eddy: Don’t give up hope. Many of us were in your shoes. It took 9 years for my diagnosis, at which point it becomes a bizarre relief. Not that it changed anything, I still mostly manage pain as I go through the rotation of meds I can afford to see what works without awful side-effects.

    Find a doc, or the emergency room, to prescribe a healthy dose painkiller TODAY until you can see a rheumy. It makes the difference between wanting to die from pain, and making it to the other side. You can find me on the facebook page and message me if you need an ear.

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  • December 11, 2010 at 10:33 pm
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    This is a truly excellent post. I have learned so much about this disease from your blog. Great job at raising awareness, Kelly!

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  • December 11, 2010 at 11:19 pm
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    Good Evening and thank you so much for sharing this with us. Interesting that I have read that men have more severe cases than women. It’s always difficult to know the Truth of a disease that is not well understood and there are contradictory studies that we often find.

    I’m a man of 58 yrs who was diagnosed with RA about 8 yrs ago after a SLE Lupus diagoses. I also have Sjogrens. Multiple autoimmune diseases are, unfortunately, not uncommon. I also have many associated diseases, syndomes and of course the challenges we all share in mobility as mine has declined greatly of the past 3 yrs. I am resisting a wheelchair, yet chances are that is the destination. I am drug resistant or sensitive to being allergic with horrible side-effects. Nothing to date has worked and my life was threated twice due to allergic reactions. I have a tendency toward Vasculitis and the autoimmune diseases (which one? Who knows… they ‘think’ more the Lupus, but it could be any of them or a combination. No one really knows.

    I so appreciate your piece because “Men Get Lupus Too.” I have a passion to advocate and do so every day for both men and women. We are, indeed, in this together. The separation of our genders hurts us. I strongly believe that there needs to be an substantial increase in the research for men and substantially increased research with for both genders together in all aspects of RA, et al.

    I continue to learn so much from the research for women and have applied so much of this knowledge, coping skills and much more that have improved my life to one degree or another. I believe that women can learn equally from men. Coming together as One United Voice in the fight for increased funding that will improve and multiple the much needed research so we may find a cure(s) for RA and other auotimmune diseases must be our mission, always. Gender ought not to even be a part of our consciousness.

    As you pointed out, men’s socialization into our culture is extremely different than women. I will not go through all the differences as I believe that women fully recognize them for better or for worse. This dysfunctional socialization does a great harm to men as we are not to be weak on any level. This causes us all and I was one of them to be extremely hesitant to go to physicians in the first place. It is my contention that the statistics that seem so diverse between men and women who have RA, Lupus, MS, Sjogrens and the 100+ other autoimmune diseases known to date, would prove to be far closer than we believe, IF men’s awareness that it is essential for men to gain the healthcare that they need as soon as they begin to have symptoms. As we know, it is imparitive that more people, whatever their gender be diagnosed and treated as early as possible to insure a better and longer quality of lives, as well as to save our lives.

    I hope that more women will become more inclusive of men as to whom to we learn from the most during our lifetime? The answer is women and that means the majority of you. Please join me in welcoming your RA Brothers and help us to elevate the necessity of awareness and knowledge that “Men Have RA Too!”

    Bless You for the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings. I am eagerly awaiting more and more of my women friends to join this inclusive part of RA Soldiers who respect and honour one another’s diseases process throughout the world. We need One another to complete our mission in mutual support and finding a cure in our lifetime and for the generations to come!!

    Will you fight with us? We will greatly appreciate the Grace and Love that it takes to do so.

    Blessings to you,

    Anthony

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  • December 11, 2010 at 11:40 pm
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    Kevin, I just wanted to give you some encouragement. I, too, got RA at age 23 (you can read the full story on RA Warrior, Onset Stories page 11). I am now turning 78, and although life with RA has been a challenge, it has been a wonderful one, full of joy and accomplishment. Some of the directions RA sent me turned out to be life-enriching ones. And there were not the effective meds that are now available. Hang in there and don’t get discouraged. There may even be a cure in your lifetime. Who knows?

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  • February 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm
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    Thank you for this post. My husband has been recently diagnosed with RA and I’m struggling to find ways to be supportive for him. My best female friend has lived with this horrible disease for 18 years and I’ve learned some things from her. As your post points out, however, there are just certain things that are different for men.

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  • December 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm
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    As a 34 year old man who’s had RA for just about 11 years now its been a rough ride and kinda lonely considering I can’t do most activities then normal people lots of times I am alone with my pain who wants to hang out with a 30 year old who acts and feels like he is 70 I’m. Just thankful I just found this website sometimes I feel like I’m the only one that goes through this and so few people in my life are understanding or even care I just miss the days I could run and play football or basketball even to go out on a date to take a girl out I felt like I was robbed of my young adult life I only hope Ill find that understanding person who doesn’t judge me on my disability .Id say for a man this disease is the worst to take a mans strength is like taking his life hang in there guys

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  • October 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm
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    Oh yes, we men can get RA, too! Some MD’s don’t seem to understand that. I was misdiagnosed for several years. You’re right, Kelly, both genders can become part of this involuntary club. But we’re here, we share the condition, and we can help each other move forward and live!

    Reply

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