Victory: early RA diagnosis for a friend
This past week I was actually excited about my friend Paige’s early RA diagnosis. Let me say that a better way—I was excited that her rheumatoid disease was recognized so she could start being treated. After listening carefully to Paige and looking at pictures of her swollen fingers, I knew she had RA / RD that had been simmering for a while. It was just starting to become what I’ve always called “full-blown.”
When I saw my rheumatologist this morning, I thanked her for helping my friend get on a good path with an early RA diagnosis. We agreed that “early” meant she didn’t have the disabilities and deformities that I have now, and hopefully she never would because she’s being treated as soon as symptoms are obvious. But we also agreed that her joint problems over the years were likely related to simmering RA / RD.
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Tools to manage an early RA diagnosis
That’s when she mentioned one of the most important keys to managing an early RA diagnosis: “Back then, we didn’t know. And we didn’t have the tools.” It reminded me of my recent email letter: I compared remodeling a house to renovating rheumatology.
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We live with some old practices and old ideas and at the same time have gleaming new tools that promise a normal life where we can run and play tennis. Some few people use the tools early and reach that goal of “normal,” but most of us have to accept something less and call it “new normal” and live on. And unfortunately, both eventually do experience disease progression, some more than others.
Tools to achieve an early RA diagnosis
No one can see the future clearly to predict exactly how rheumatoid disease will one day be cured. Yet, it’s very possible that the disease will someday be prevented from ever causing pain or illness because it will be detected and treated like pre-diabetes or pre-cancerous cells. For those of us who already suffer from the disease, labs also study how to re-train the immune system to stop attacking joints and organs.
However today, we have tools that can make an enormous difference if old ideas are left behind. New tools include newer medicines and modern strategies for using them.
OLD IDEAS (MYTHS needing renovation)
- RA is a type of arthritis
- It starts in the hands
- Extra-articular disease is rare
- Symptoms are always visible (swelling required for diagnosis)
- Medicines like biologics and JAK inhibitors
- Recognizing the disease starts before fingers swell
- Strategies like treat to target
- Early screening for antibodies in family members
It’s true we need more. We need different types of medicines and more tests for detecting a variety of antibodies earlier. But using what we have and know now to its utmost with early RA diagnosis will prevent a lot of suffering.
May is Arthritis Awareness Month. It’s a good time to help others be aware of the true nature of rheumatoid disease. Like the popular RPF billboards say: Arthritis is just one symptom.
COMMENT BELOW: DOES EARLY RA DIAGNOSIS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE? HOW EARLY ARE PEOPLE BEING TREATED NOW?
(Images from my phone this morning before my shot.)
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