March is AutoImmune Disease Month! I had no idea until I checked out a couple or 3 of my favorite RA blogs. HOW could I not know that? Well, Dear Reader, I suspect you didn’t know that, either! So here’s the skinny. AutoImmune Diseases are a set of conditions in which your body goes haywire and your immune system starts attacking parts of your body. These diseases include Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Lupus Erythematosus (LE), Psoriatic Arthritis (PA), and a huge list of other diseases. You can find a more comprehensive list HERE, and HERE. So how does that translate for people in “real” life? It’s all very individual, which makes it hard to diagnose and hard to treat. My Momma had RA, I have RA, my late MIL (Himself’s mother) had RA, my SIL (Himself’s sister) has RA. Let’s look at the differences and similarities of our conditions:
|Sudden Onset with fever, chills, malaise and severe pain||Sudden Onset||Sudden Onset||Gradual Onset over 30 years|
|Initial single joint involvement – MCP of right thumb||Multiple joints onset||Multiple joints onset||Multiple joints onset|
|Rapid progression to total disability||Stopped after 1 year||Ongoing small flares with occasional severe flares||Ongoing simmering flare with occasional severe flare|
|Required over 30 orthopedic surgeries, including 3 cervical fusions, synovectomy of one knee, 3 surgeries on right thumb with pin placement, 2 surgeries on left thumb with pin placement; used splints, casts and braces.||Use splints for hands|
|Died 15 years after diagnosis||Died many years after diagnosis||Still living 6 years after onset||Still living 5 years after diagnosis and 30 years of migratory joint inflammation and pain|
|Malaise||No malaise||Moderate malaise||Severe malaise|
|Severe eye involvement: uveitis, iritis; ear involvement: inflammation and fusion of stapes-malleolus joint||Glaucoma||Glaucoma; Ankylosing Spondylitis||Severe dry eye; Vasculitis/phlebitis; remote history of orbital pseudotumor; cricoarytenoid arthritis (chronic hoarseness and fullness of voice box) (More info HERE and HERE)|
|Weight loss despite chronic Prednisone||No weight loss||Slight weight gain||Major weight gain|
|Heat sensitive||Unknown||Raynaud’s Syndrome with serious cold sensitivity||Both heat and cold sensitive with narrow functional zone. No symptoms of Raynaud’s Syndrome.|
|Multiple nodules on elbows, arms, fingers, ankles with breakdown and ulceration.||.||.||Single nodule on arm|
|Rapid progression through all joints.||Only MCPs and PIPs involved.||Wrists and all joints in hands involved. Knee involvement. One Knee replacement.||All joints involved, but gradual and slow progression. No surgery – yet – but being evaluated for hip and knee replacements|
|Deceased from RA||Deceased from heart attack or stroke||Living with severe RA.||Living with moderate to severe RA.|
Himself has glaucoma, and probably mild RA, but he refuses to get that diagnosis. He says one person in the household with RA is enough. [MEN! Whether he has a formal diagnosis or not, he still has the same problems of joint pain, swelling and mild inflammation.]
There are multiple other blogs by people with various combinations of autoimmune diseases – and no two are exactly alike. Just search for them in Google, by disease: eg. Rheumatoid Arthritis blogs
The expression of our disease is very individual. We may or may not have depression. We may or may not complain of our pain – for we all have pain. There comes a time when we are even unaware of some of he pain we have because there is so much in so many locations of so many different types. And all the while, our bodies are eating up our joints and connective tissues, our hearts and lungs, our kidneys and even our eyes and ears.
Even Glaucoma is considered an autoimmune disease. More diseases and conditions are being added all the time.
So March is supposed to be the month we become more aware of autoimmune diseases and support the research being done to learn more about them. Hopefully we will eventually find effective treatments that are also economical. Many of us cannot afford the treatments we need [especially biologicals and plasmaphoresis-type treatments, not to mention chemotherapy in severe cases].
Happy Autoimmune Disease Month!