What Does Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Look Like?

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Common myths about RA linger in college classes

RA-deformitiesIn an immunology teaching lab class this semester, my daughter Katie Beth (KB) learned how to perform a rheumatoid factor test (latex agglutination). Prior to that lecture, KB read through the professor’s slides in the syllabus. She noticed the material included several common errors about Rheumatoid Disease (RD). I was so proud to read the email she sent to her teachers in an effort to correct the misconceptions (such as age and pattern of onset).

Way to go, KB!

While not perfect, the presentation about the rheumatoid factor test and RD itself was improved. KB pointed out that hundreds of students in different lab sections heard a more accurate explanation of RD. I was so proud of her. Still, the speaker included a few “RA facts” he’d found from sources that many consider trustworthy. But they aren’t necessarily all accurate.

“That’s not what RA looks like,” she said…

Furthermore, the images on the slides (see right) were only of the most extreme rheumatoid deformity. As fate would have it, that error didn’t go undetected either. Another girl in KB’s class exclaimed, “That’s not what Rheumatoid Arthritis looks like. My mom has RA.” A surprised KB had someone to compare notes with. I wonder whether the professor recognized that with a disease as common as RD, there’s bound to be people affected by it sitting in his lecture hall.

What’s a good picture of rheumatoid arthritis / rheumatoid disease?

Rheumatoid disease is pretty complicated to be demonstrated by a photograph. Severe deformities do occur, although many believe they are less common now, for debatable reasons. What’s a good picture? Is it possible for a photograph to show the pain, functional loss, or health impact of RD?

What do you think? Can a picture accurately represent RD? Is severe deformity the best way to teach about RD? What do you think will correct the common misconceptions about RD?

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Related stories

Is there such a thing as “seronegative RA”? What is or is not meaningful using rheumatoid factor as a label? It’s confusing, but we should remember that tests are tools to help people, so they should never be used as weapons. Continue reading… Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis

Telling the truth about what’s a “complication” and what’s just the disease. It’s not that complicated to grasp: these are secondary Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms… If I’m driving to Wal-Mart, and I get a flat tire, that is something that “complicates” my trip… Click to continue reading… 3 Reasons to Stop Saying “Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 4:44 am and is filed under The Real Rheumatoid Disease. 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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