Swollen Knees Are Smoother: The Glad Game in Rheumatoid Disease | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Swollen Knees Are Smoother: The Glad Game in Rheumatoid Disease

Swollen knees and a smile (UPDATED 2016)

swollen knees are smoother

A silver lining to swollen knees

I made a strange discovery a couple weeks ago in the bathtub. Not Roo’s plastic goldfish. Round knees. (Swollen knees).

Shaving my legs (I hope the guys won’t mind this story too much…) I was amazed how easily the razor glided around my knees. Inspecting them afterwards, the proof was undeniable: No corners equals no cuts!

How about that? A benefit of swollen knees! No razor nicks. I’d have noticed sooner, but I prefer waxing. How many other advantages are there to living with Rheumatoid Disease (RD) that I’ve missed so far?

Want to read more about swelling?

Finding something to be glad for (or at least smile at)

That first year of RD, I remember finding a small bright spot. I realized that since I wasn’t able to fix my hair and it was too difficult to put on makeup, instead, I’d just go get in the car when it was time to go somewhere. I remember telling someone it was like a burden lifted to be free to come and go like a man – at a moment’s notice.

Of course, I was making light of a big adjustment. But laughing helps. I’ve had my share of crying days too.

Maybe we can find an advantage to the crepitus we talked about last week:

  • People can hear me coming if my joints snap.
  • The sounds can break an awkward silence.
  • I can’t play hide and seek (so I don’t have to!)
  • I’ll never accidentally walk into an awkward moment.

CAN YOU THINK OF ONE?

Swollen is in the knee of the beholder – or maybe not

swollen knees Rheumatoid Arthritis / Rheumatoid Disease Here are a few recent swollen knees shots made into a collage. I poked my fingers in to show how deep the doughy-ness was. Yes, I’ve seen knees far more swollen than mine. But these are the knees I walk with, and they hurt. These are the knees that hate to sit, carry invisible icepicks, and refuse to straighten.

These are the swollen knees that have never been examined by a rheumatologist, even though Dr. Smart once eagerly put a photo of them in my medical file, saying, “That’s a Baker’s cyst!” Another doctor once told me sarcastically, “My wife’s feet are fatter than that.” Does it matter if his wife has chubby or swollen feet? What should matter at that moment is that my skinny feet – and knees – are bony and sharp. When they aren’t swollen.

I’m not sure it should matter how swollen a knee looks if it’s swollen – so long as it’s easier to shave.

As I update this in 2016, I’ve had a couple more years of living with RD, a couple of steroid shots in my knees, and I use a knee brace occasionally. They stay swollen most of the time, and very stiff. And I still try to smile through it.

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Kelly O'Neill Young

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked over 10 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly by on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over thirteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

20 thoughts on “Swollen Knees Are Smoother: The Glad Game in Rheumatoid Disease

  • August 5, 2013 at 7:41 am
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    I finally got a handicap placard. Some folks think it’s cool to park close to the door in a “special” spot. I did. Getting the placard was really hard for me. I resisted a long time. Till I hit a day when I had to park far away. Going into the store was fine. After awhile in the store and standing in line, the walk to the car was painful. I still don’t park in a blue spot if I can get close. There are others who may need it more. I think my town only has one Disabled parking spot on Main St. Pretty sad. But I never noticed before I got a placard.

    Reply
    • August 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm
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      Doug,

      I go tomorrow (BMV is closed on Mondays) to get mine. I, too, have put it off for as long as possible but it is getting harder and harder to walk halfway across a parking lot and then shop (I pretty much only shop for groceries anymore). I have mixed feelings about getting a tag but the time has come. And my friends who understand the struggles I have wonder why I didn’t do it before. I’ve had RA/RD for 15-20 years although only “officially” diagnosed 5 yrs ago. I, too, will only use my placard when I have to but we should be glad that when we need it, we will have it! Take care of yourself!

      Reply
  • August 5, 2013 at 8:26 am
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    I was diagnosed with RA about 2 years ago. I really suffered for the first year. In August 2012 I started taking Actemra infusions. I am now about 95% pain free about as close to remission as I think I will ever get. Actemra was the 3rd biologic I tried and the only one that worked.
    My point is don’t give up, try every available type of medication. RA is very complex and a medication that works for one person may not work for another.
    I am not recommemding Actemra for everyone but, it works for me and Enbrel and Simponi did not. Also, i no longer take MTX and have weaned myself off of Prednisone.

    Reply
    • August 5, 2013 at 8:35 am
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      I agree Tom. I’m glad you found something that’s helping you.

      Reply
  • August 5, 2013 at 8:58 am
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    The problem with RA is that you are not only dealing with one joint’s inflammation and pain, but all too often you are dealing with MANY joints at the same time. So perhaps your knees were less swollen than doc’s wife’s ankles, but you have multiple other areas in your body wearing you down also, making you more exhausted, lessening your tolerance for pain in the knees because you are trying to ignore pain in so many other areas as well. Tell doc it’s sad his wife’s ankles are so bad, but you are not there to discuss his wife’s ailments. You are searching for some relief from yours. Ask him to be the same attentive compassionate doctor to you that he would expect of the doctor who treats his wife. P.S. I too have smooth knees! Lol (Diagnosed with RA in 2008)

    Reply
  • August 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm
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    I thought my knees had just gotten fat, like the rest of me, since I’ve had RA! I take 7.5 mg of prednisone daily (can’t seem to function below that, tho my rheumy would like me to.) prednisone makes you want to gnaw your own arm off, so hungry always! That and the lack of mobility have packed the pounds on the last 16 years. I have a pool so ido pool exercises several times a week. Can’t do laps now cause I have a torn rotator cuff. I’m doing pt for that now and for my balance issues. (I fall easily and can’t get up by myself.) ugh!! I will proably end up getting a shoulder replacement (the 4tendons are irreparable), to go along w/my bionic knee and titanium rod in my back! I take 15 mg of mtx weekly and orencia infusion monthly. Both of those used to do the trick but ever since I was taken off relafen, due to bad kidney numbers, I’ve been getting flares in hands and feet. It’s always sumthin, right?

    Reply
  • August 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm
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    Kelly, thank you for finding that silver lining and making us laugh! A little humor really helps a lot.
    I’ve got a strange situation going on right now that has me shaking my head – the middle finger of my left hand is getting noticeably more stiff than the other fingers. Is it possible that I’m going to end up with THAT FINGER in a permanently straight position? Oh no ….

    Reply
    • August 11, 2013 at 9:23 am
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      Martha… You sure you are not developing Trigger finger? Does it lock up in a fist position? Mine does this quite a bit, usually when I’m sleeping. I wear a finger brace most nights or I would have to soak it in warm soapy water to loosen up enough to forcefully straighten it out. Once I get it straighten then it functions normal (normal as an RA warrior can be. My mother had trigger finger also and was given a cream to use and did some PT. I know a few people at work decided to have surgery for theirs. All they do is go into the palm of your hand and slice a tendon.

      Reply
  • August 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm
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    I have one swollen knee, one swollen hand and this morning I could barely walk with my left foot. Everyday it is something. My Doctor has put me on geneeic for Arava plus Methotrexate. My question is why am so tired ? The swollen knee is also smooth and round as you described.

    Reply
    • August 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm
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      Alyce, I hear you when you say you are tired. Fatigue has been a problem for me for years. Have the doc check if you need iron or are anemic. Lord bless you.

      Reply
  • August 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm
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    My knees where the first to swell and my back is messed up neck and lower back. Now my ankles are going the same way. My doc added immuniran to embrel and plaquenil and have gotten 2 sinus infections back to back. My lower body has had more problems than upper body, have the crepitius in lower body awlful. Will not,give up.

    Reply
  • August 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm
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    I have also experienced the hair and makeup changes as my hands got more involved the past 7-8 years. It IS like a burden lifted when you realize that it’s just not going to happen anymore! I’m getting a bit of gray hair, and have decided not to start coloring it… I can’t stomach the salon costs, and would want to do it at home, but doing ANYTHING with my hair already takes it out of me, so why add one more thing? (plus my husband says my hair looks great the way it is, isn’t that sweet?)
    I used to spend more time worrying about matching my outfits and now I’m more concerned with comfort. With less shoes that are comfortable, it’s easier to get ready in the morning! Less choices. So I see the same silver linings Kelly 🙂

    Reply
  • August 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm
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    I can relate, but with my puffy swollen cartoon balloon hands. Now, I’ve always had fat hands, but this is ridiculous. I have these round pinkish brown things with no bones or veins, with fat little sausages poking out one end and an arm poking out the other!

    If they didn’t hurt so bad, I’d laugh at them.

    Reply
  • August 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm
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    Silver lining: on prednisone all my wrinkles disappear!
    Suggestion: keep a photo collage of your entire body when it’s “normal.” Then you have concrete evidence of you “before” and “after.”

    Reply
  • August 8, 2013 at 9:10 pm
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    ugh, memories of pure hell. I used to get a swollen knee so bad I couldnt extend/bend it to walk, and I have a job that requires me to be on my feet all day. I told lots of excuses like a pulled muscle etc, just to avoid having to tell the real story. One particular time both knees got in on the action and I went to the Rheumy, he tapped one knee for fluid to “look” at it. Never did find out what the conclusion of the fluid they drew was, but it filled 2 vials and the aspiration hurt awful bad. I will never allow them to drain a knee again, no point in doing it… I’m so lucky that Enbrel has put me back to normal again, but the memories of what happens should it quit working haunt me daily. I hope you find some relief somehow someday Kelly.

    Reply
  • August 10, 2013 at 1:19 am
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    Yes! I do have a positive comment on RA…my hands are swollen all of
    the time (no joint deformity yet…) and so, look very young! The
    skin is taught and there are no wrinkles. My 62 year old hands appear
    30 years old! That is a positive thing, for now at least!!!

    Reply
  • November 24, 2014 at 11:57 pm
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    Just have to say it’s pleasant reading your article, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis in 1981, my father said “Honey if you wake up and nothing hurts, it means you died”.. I didn’t know what he meant then, my knees had swollen and my parents were forced to bring me to a Dr. for school. The doc said “Hell she as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Mom said “ok” and that was it. No meds no special treatment and barely a word about the ailment ever. When my knees hurt I wrapped them and when my feet hurt I wore flat shoes, when my hands stopped working I forced my self to play the guitar all the while never going to a doctor myself. I lived with it med and doc free for 25 years. Then one day it looked like someone took hammers to my feet they were horrible black and blue and green, twisted and deformed. I rushed myself to the hospital and they were shocked that I could walk with what looked like broken feet. No breaks just arthritis. So I went to a specialist and of course by then the flare had faded, I had to beg get them to do the bloodwork, I am not afraid of Rheumatiod arthritis while it really annoys me some days. But every member of my family has AI of some sort so I was concerned it may be more than the initial diagnosis. Turns out I am a thick headed woman living with RA with little or no medication for as long as I can. But it is nice to be reminded that there are other people with all the same symptoms. I literally have every single one you described here. We are not alone.

    Reply
  • December 7, 2015 at 9:55 am
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    I am so thankful for my warriors. I am unable to get off prednisone. 4mg every other day. In the beginning, I took 80mg every day. My body didn’t get big, but my head was huge. Lol. I laugh every day.

    Reply
  • January 14, 2016 at 7:06 pm
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    I guess that is why we are “warriors”. We learn to adjust our strategy to fight the war to live! Thanks for the “silver lining”. I can certainly use it today!

    Reply
  • January 30, 2017 at 8:51 pm
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    I was able to remember a benefit to rheumatoid arthritis. Having to make good food choices because my hands could not scoop the ice cream out of the carton! Thank you RA

    Reply

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