A reliable diagnosis for Lupus on its way?

February 3, 2011 at 9:41 am | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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You may think RA is a hard one to diagnose, and I’ve often heard complaints as to how it’s overlooked by medics and the public alike, but Lupus (or Systemic lupus erythematosus to give it its full name) is RA’s poor relation in this respect. Lupus is another autoimmune disease, but this time with the autoimmune system attacking connective tissue – and of course connective tissue occurs in all the internal organs as well as joints, so it can cause inflammation of all sorts of parts of the body, resulting in a bizarre set of symptoms that is often not diagnosed as one problem i.e. Lupus,  for many years.  I suspect that one reason is that GPs etc. would only recognise it from the famous ‘lupus butterfly rash’ that occurs on the cheeks and across the nose, but according to Wikipedia (and I don’t know where they referenced it form!) only 30-50% of Lupus sufferers ever display the rash at all.  Some research has been done now in America to show that Lupus might be caused by a malfunctioning of ‘micro RNAs’, which are things that white blood cells use to control the function of antibodies etc. This is research in mice, something that a lot of people would find uncomfortable but which I’m not going to get into a discussion about here; from a purely biological point of view, however, diseases in mice show a remarkably good correlation to diseases in humans, and the mice show a consistent pattern of ‘dis-regulated’ micro RNAs when they develop Lupus.

What that means is that, probably ten years or so down the line, if it gets that far*, there could be a simple diagnosis ‘kit’ for Lupus, where it can be clearly and easily diagnosed with a blood test or similar, whereas at the moment there is no such test – various tests can hint that it might be Lupus or some other autoimmune disorder, but then again it might not, but there’s nothing conclusive.

Like rheumatoid arthritis 1) it’s quite likely that there are a lot of people out there who are in the early stages and undiagnosed and 2) with Lupus it’s known that many people are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for many years before they are given a diagnosis of Lupus, so a test that is as conclusive as this sounds like it would be would certainly be very good news indeed.

We then have to hope of course that the test itself is not so expensive that no clinicians will actually pay to use it, but that’s another story, and probably one we won’t have to worry about for another ten years or so!

Giving myself a kick up the …

February 1, 2011 at 10:10 am | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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I’m feeling a lot better at the moment. Exercise obviously is the cure for or ills! (Well perhaps not, but I think it might have helped a bit! Perhaps it’s browsing books that made me feel better!) Anyway, in spite of feeling better physically I woke up yesterday with a major ‘Monday morning feeling’ and a distinct grump on about the fact that we’d had too really gloomy days over the weekend and yet last Friday and this Monday (when I had to work, of course, or in Friday’s case would have been working if I hadn’t been at home with my head under a pillow trying to shift the latest migraine), we had gloriously sunny, spring days.

Then I decided this was not the positive thinking penguin I wanted to be! So I ‘reframed’ and started to think, ‘Hey, at least I can glance out of the window and see blue sky and the promise of spring, even if I do have to work.’  Then at lunchtime I managed to reframe, ‘Oh heck, we’ve gone a bit quiet at work, will we have enough to keep us going?’  to ‘Ooh, goodie, we’re a bit quiet. I’ve got time to go for a nice walk at lunch time and enjoy the sunshine.’ And I did. I only went up and down the high street, popped into a few charity shops and had a browse (got seriously tempted by a knitting machine, but that’s another story)  but mostly just wandered up and down soaking up the sun (in a well wrapped kind of way, given that it’s still February!) but I felt so much better for it, and so much better for seeing the aconites starting to flower, bright yellow splashes of colour that are definitely the heralds of spring round here! (It was the primroses where I used to live, in Devon, but here it’s the snowdrops and the aconites.) Anyway, I’m feeling much better for it – and hoping that today will bring a bit more sunshine and another chance for a walk … although my fears about lack of work were groundless, as a load more has come in! Even so, I shall jolly well make time for a walk at lunch time!

End of the line for physio?

June 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, fibromyalgia, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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OK, here’s the thing – the geniuses at my local NHS physo department (or should that be genii?) have decreed that in order to ‘be in line with the private sector’ they will only give any patient a maximum of six appointments before they kick them out. (The last three words are, of course, my terminology and not theirs!)

I asked Lovely Physio how this was ‘in line with the private sector’, as I had had to have quite a bit of private treatment before I got into the NHS programme and oddly enough they hadn’t been anxious to see the back of me after six appointments. No surprise there – I was paying them. Why would they want to be shot of me? She said something like, ‘I have no idea, but that’s how they’re presenting it to us!’

I suspect the idea is that by ignoring the fact that there are people with chronic conditions who can benefit enormously from regular therapy and pretending that everyone they see can be ‘cured’ in six appointments, they can massage their figures by getting the waiting list down from the current five weeks to a more ‘in line with the private sector’ one to three weeks.

The complexity of the system emerges from the fact that it’s general practitioner budget that pay for this treatment, but once you were being treated, until now, it was up to each physio to decide when and if to discharge. The GPs had little or no say, but they had to pay. So the idea is that you now have your maximum of six appointments and then go back to the GP if you feel you need to still see a physio, to get re-referred, as I mentioned in the previous post. The GP can, of course, say no. I suspect if I see the one that knows me she would say yes … we’ll have to wait and see, but even if she does we’re looking at a five-week waiting list right now.

One silver lining in the cloud – they have an SOS system whereby if I need to see my physio in the next couple of months I can phone and make an appointment saying I’m on the ‘SOS list’. I can then go in under that and have maybe six appointments then before getting kicked out! Hopefully I won’t need to see her in the next two months, but last time I thought that I only lasted three weeks …

Unfortunately I feel I have very little fight in me at the moment – I don’t know if that might be something to do with the thyroid issues i might or might not have, but that’s the way it is!

I’m fed up with being a yo-yo!

March 24, 2010 at 10:46 am | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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On the plus side, at least a yo-yo goes up as well as down! I’ve had another mini-flare (fizzle, floret?) since I last posted, which is why I’ve been so quiet lately … well, that and the fact that work has been insanely busy lately. I rather strongly suspect the two are connected!

I have posted before, once or twice :-) on the importance of pacing yourself and a week or so ago I gave a great demonstration of exactly how now to do that! Worked long hours, worked part of the weekend, ignored the warning signs, took paracetamol or rubbed in magic herbal rub stuff and just kept on working … and of course woke up one morning almost unable to get out of bed. I did get out of bed … still had deadlines to meet, but came home early in a LOT of pain.

So, what would a sensible person do at this point? Take some painkillers, go to bed and have a bit of a snooze probably. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t feel well enough to work but I still have all this City and Guilds embroidery stuff I need to do, so I’ll go to bed with some research books for that …’

Eventually I reached a point where I HAD to go to sleep, but was still trying not to as I thought that would mean I wouldn’t sleep at night. I got to the point where I realised that I’d need matchsticks if I was going to keep my eyes open and gave in.

At this point I was still in a LOT of pain but did drift off to sleep … and woke up an hour later feeling fine! I know sleep is important, but that’s a really extreme example! And I did sleep well that night too. I must have been really sleep deprived and not even realised it!

Mind you, waking up with five to ten hot flushes (flashes) per night is not exactly helping on the sleep front.

Still, things are looking up – work is now steady (which means that I’ll be panicking in a week or two that there’s not enough), apart from one odd twingey pain in one knuckle I’m not bad on the RA front … the yo-yo is on the upswing again … and will hopefully sit at the top for a while at least!

Puzzling pains

March 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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I’ve got two different rather odd pains to add to the usual mix at the moment! One is a burning pain that I get intermittently in my spine, a few vertebra down from my neck. It’s not too bad, just a bit odd, a bit burny and a bit tingly. Bizarrely, my physio thinks this is a sign of a bit of stiffness. Does anyone else get stiffness manifesting as burning?! Well, she’s given some exercises for flexing the upper thorax, and if they work then I guess she’s right.

The other one is that, having found ultrasound fantastically helpful for ages now, I’m suddenly finding it incredibly painful on my acromioclavicular joint. (Excuse my showing off my knowledge of joint names – it took ages for my physio to teach me this one and I rarely get the chance to use it … it’s the little insignificant (until it hurts) joint between the shoulder and color bone, right at the front.) It starts off alright and then it very quickly gets incredibly sore and painful. Physio says she’s come across this happening before but she doesn’t know why, and she wonders if it’s just a bit more inflamed than usual.

I hope it’s NOT more inflamed than usual. Did I speak to soon about averting a flare? Today certainly didn’t help on the stress reduction front – all clients want their work now (if not last week), and one thought I could proofread 90,000 words in two weeks. Well, I could if I had nothing else to do … grrrr… Oddly enough I feel more stressed now with both computers working than I did yesterday with both computers not working. Does this say something about computers, I wonder?

I hate computers

March 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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As someone in the office said today, ‘I love what they do … I just wish they did it better’. I had an unbelievable computer day yesterday. My work computer finally died. We won’t go into the fact that I’ve been saying ‘the C drive’s dying’ for a couple of months and the IT guy’s been going, ‘Oh no it isn’t …’ Suffice it to say, it did.

After one HELL of a day I went out for a very pleasent evening of sewing and chatting with the local quilting group (where I don’t quilt but do sew and chat), came home and thought ‘ better check my email’ … so I turned on my laptop and it broke. Honest – just like that. The on button became an ‘in button’ – permenantly pressed in and fallen down inside the computer.

I really thought that was the end of my computer, but I’d gone through stressed and out the other side yesterday and I was, extraordinarly, completely calm! I just decided I didn’t have room or energy to worry about anything else and what would be would be.

I did think all the stress was bringing on a flare last night, but it hasn’t happened – whether that’s because of my determination not to get stressed about this latest thing and to calm myself down, or whether it was never going to happen anyway I shall never know.

Anyway, to ‘cut stories long and short’, I phoned the local IT shop this morning, explained the situation, got a very poor prognosis but ‘bring it in and we’ll look at it …’ I did, he did, he jammed a screwdriver in a place I wouldn’t have dared tamper with and yanked off part of the top and then stood there going, ‘But … but, but, but, but… but …’ interspersed with ‘That’s not supposed to be able to happen …’ and ‘In all my forty years in the business I’ve never seen anything like this …’

Astonishingly the story has a happy ending – or perhaps a happy middle as it’s not totally resolved yet. He showed me where I needed to apply some superglue (of all things!) and then how to put on the bit he’d yanked off, and showed me that the laptop still works! Woohoo! He didn’t charge me a penny and even said if I was nervous about putting the bit of cover back on I could bring it back in and he’d do it for me. That’s customer service for you – and I’ve never even been a customer in there. But you know what – if I want a PC in the future, that’s the first place I’ll look, for sure! A ‘big shout out’ for Ulric Computers!

I shall leave hubby to do the supergluing – feeling far too fumble-fingered after all that, although really I’m sure none of it was anything I did!

Seeing RA under every stone

February 8, 2010 at 10:36 am | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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Is it me, or do others with rheumatoid arthritis see RA possibilities everywhere? I’ve told my bro, who has had neck pain for years and gets inflamed knuckles, that he really should get an RA test, even though it’s incredibly unlikely in a lad his age. (Unlikely but not impossible, as Rhuematoid Arthritis Guy can testify, and not an unreasonable suggestion given that he’s my brother and we do have family with RA.

However, it starts to get a bit silly when you’re sitting chatting to someone and start thinking ‘ooh, they get stiff in the mornings; could be RA.’ Well yeah, I have to remind myself, but when they say stiff they probably mean their muscles ache a bit because they went jogging last night, not that they can’t move their joints. But then again, RA is notoriously hard to diagnose, so when you’re sitting in the OT’s room chatting to another patient who is being treated for ‘carpel tunnel syndrome’ in both wrists, has been referred to the podiatrist because of pain in both feet, finds it hard to grip the steering wheel for any length of time, gets ‘dead arms’ in the middle of the night just like I do and finds it difficult to be a passenger even in the car for long journeys because when she gets out she’s ‘stiff all over’ … oh yes, and this all started with ‘the change’ … you can’t help wondering, can you? Or can you? Is it just me?

It’s hard to keep your mouth shut sometimes, but I managed it. For all I know she’s been thoroughly tested for it and hasn’t got it, but I couldn’t ask; I’d never even met her before that day. It makes me wonder even more because when I was diagnosed with RA I’d gone to the doctor saying, ‘Help – I think I’ve got carpel tunnel syndrome!’

I suppose I shall never know, and I really hope I’m barking up the wrong tree altogether, for her sake … but I can’t help wondering. Am I being silly?

Sick, sick, sick …

January 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Posted in Me | 13 Comments
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No I’m not actually sick, I’m just sick to death of the way hormones seem to rule my life. Until Wednesday I’d been menstruating pretty much constantly since before Christmas.  By Sunday last I looked and felt like death warmed up, was bursting in to tears at the slightest provocation (or no provocation) and figured it was time I saw the doc. I knew I’d have trouble when she recommended a tablet that messes with the hormones, but heck, what else are you supposed to do stop a continuous period? So I bit the bullet and went on to Norethisterone (synthetic progesterone). I was a good girl – I didn’t even look at the side effects when I started it on Tuesday. I didn’t even look to see it was synthetic progesterone at the time.

Well the good news is it worked like magic – by Wednesday my seemingly never-ending period had stopped, the hot flushes hadn’t come back and I had very few RA symptoms. By yesterday I felt tired but so much better than I had been feeling. Then last night I woke up at two in the morning with a gnawing hunger pang in my belly – I lay in bed fantasising about porridge with tons of Golden Syrup on it! Fortunately Middle-size Cat and Enormous Cat were both firmly on top of me, purring and being cute, so I resisted the temptation as I didn’t want to disturb them. (Note, disturbing hubby didn’t even enter into the equation – awful, aren’t I? Then again, not much does disturb hubby once he’s asleep!) It’ll pass, I thought.

I woke up again at about six-thirty with a really awful gnawing hunger pang in my belly again! Hmm, I thought, this isn’t good. Heck, it’s Friday. Let’s go wild and have some porridge (instead of the usual and rather better for me Bran Flakes). I had some porridge. The hunger pangs didn’t go away. I made my lunch – beef salad. Normally when I’m making my lunch the absolute last thing I want to do there and then, straight after breakfast, is eat it. Today I could have eaten the whole damn lot. (I didn’t, but I could have done.) Tiny and Middle-sized cats were lucky to get their usual rations of my lunch today!

The gnawing hunger pang in my belly has NOT gone away. I ate a mid-morning snack of soya nuts, I had another slightly later morning snack of a few grapes and some dates. I had an apple. (All this before lunch!) Still gnawing hunger pang in my belly.

I had my lunch. Gnawing hunger pang in my belly. I hate to admit this but I then went to the local bakery. I’m not going to admit to what I bought (and ate) but suffice it to say that Mrs Baker would have been quite shocked if she’d known I was off back to the office to eat it all there and then, but that’s what happened. So would hubby, for that matter. He would have rather hoped I might have brought a bun home for him.  (Sorry darling!)

Guess what? Gnawing hunger pang in my belly – still. My helpful friend Weeny’s response was, ‘You’re hungry? So what’s new?’ (She’s renowned for her sympathy skills – her hubby and I tease her regularly about their lack!) The thing is this isn’t just hungry – it’s like a pain, it has to be pandered to; it’s constantly demanding. I can think of nothing but food. I just want to eat everything in sight. I look at my half-cup of cold coffee and picture a big hot chocolate swirling with cream and marshmallows; I look at the snow swirling around outside and think of ice cream; I don’t quite look at ‘the boss’ and think ‘roast beef’ but believe me I’m not that far from it. And to add insult to injury I’m doing a transcription  all about chocolate!! (I kid you not.)

You know what? I don’t think I’ll be taking any more Norethisterone!  I looked at the side effects this morning and sure enough weight gain and appetite change were nestled amongst them. I’ll put up with a constant period, I’ll live with anaemia and fatigue if I have to, but I really can’t cope with any more of this!

I wish I could live in the dream world my consultant inhabits

December 27, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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It’s official – I had a flare at the end of October/early November … and more, I suspect. No kidding. I think I knew that, but this time it actually showed in the bloods! That’s a first for me!! I’ll give the consultant his due though – he was as amazed as I was that the bloods actually matched with how I’d felt, so he does at least appreciate that one can feel totally lousy and have no indication in the blood tests whatsoever, and vice versa.

Anyway, we agreed that things were going pretty well at the moment and that it didn’t seem sensible to go on increasing the MTX willy-nilly if things were OK. I explained that I knew I was much, much better than last time I’d seen him (which I think was well over a year ago, as I’ve since seen a registrar and a nurse but not the man himself), but that they certainly weren’t perfect, and for the first time he admitted that I probably wasn’t going to achieve perfect … I’d kinda figured that out, but still a slight blow to hear him say it!

He then cheerily added that never mind, compared to what he usually saw I really wasn’t bad at all. He has no idea just how bloody irritating this comment is – he’s said it before. I think last time I was too dazed and generally fed up to actually respond, but this time I was properly prepared and I pointed out that I wasn’t comparing myself with his other patients – I was comparing myself to myself before this whole R.A. business started, and that when I do that I don’t see my current self in a terribly favourable light. The nurse who sits in with him (as a chaperon and to make sure he remembers to fill all his forms in!) was nodding sympathetically and understandingly behind his back. I got the feeling she’d heard this comment from him before and had thought exactly what I was now saying. Anyway, he sort of blinked a bit, looked rather surprised at being answered back to and mumbled something that was vaguely conciliatory … I think.

Then he bid me to enter his dream world by saying, “If the MTX doesn’t keep things under control, if you have another flare, we’ll put you on these terribly expensive new drugs called biologics or anti-TNFs.” (He does tend to forget I have a brain.)

I snorted – very rude, but it just sort of happened! I said something like, “Have to be one hell of a flare for the NHS to let me on to those!”

“Oh no,” says he, “just an ordinary sort of flare.”

Well, that’s certainly not the impression I’ve been given by the NRAS magazine, the people on the NRAS forum (other R.A. sufferers, generally in a much worse state than me, who have failed the ‘DAS test’ for anti-TNFs), the press, people I met in Barcelona, the nurse practitioner, the GP, the practice nurse … just about everyone else really. Since this is the man that told me I should see him in three months last time, when it was totally impossible for anyone to get an appointment closer than six months, and the man who told me that all I needed to do if I had a flare was phone and I’d get straight through to someone on the helpline (not true as it’s usually unmanned and then they don’t call you back) I don’t feel too filled with faith about the biologics comment either! I dare say though that his “ordinary sort of flare” would be the ordinary sort of flare that his other patients have, not my little fizzle!

Well, hopefully the MTX will now do its job properly and I won’t need to ever find out whether he’s living in a dream world or I’m just being unnecessarily pessimistic about my prospects for biologics!

Just when I think I’ve got a handle on this thing …

December 17, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 10 Comments
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I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! Don’t suppose anyone missed me (sob) but if you did wonder where I’d gone, I’ve been quiet because I’ve been having MAJOR computer problems at work and major getting my City and Guilds embroidery modules done on time problems at home!

Yesterday I was completely convinced I’d sussed my R.A.! I know there’s a link with the weather and I know there’s a link with hormones. I haven’t kept a diary but I thought I saw a pattern emerging. The pattern I thought I saw was that hormones were in the lead – provided I was menstruating or there abouts then, regardless of the weather, I’d be pretty good. If was in the midst of hot flushes then I would be less good and even worse when it rained.

Of course that turned out to be far too neat and tidy! Today I’m menstruating again (oh joy!), grumpy as hell and full of aches and pains. Aaaaargh. Of course things are complicated by the fibromyalgia, but it all FEELS like joint pain right now (apart from the period-related back ache of course!) A little hard to be sure though.

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