Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Managing Autoimmune Arthritis Activity- Genetics, Medication, Diet, & Exercise

Recently I submitted my DNA for a genetic testing study; the results were fascinating. Apparently I have higher than average genetic markers to get Rheumatoid Arthritis.  How about that?  I have Rheumatoid Arthritis so I guess that was pretty telling?

This is the very reason I get frustrated when someone tries to tell me that RA is caused by diet and/or lack of exercise.  Degenerative Arthritis, yes, can be caused by diet and exercise issues.  Some of the 80+ Autoimmune Diseases can also be a result of diet. My disease, however, is not. 

Now, in saying this, can diet and exercise (or lack thereof) contribute to the ACTIVITY of my disease?  Yes, of course.  While diet can help with inflammation, which CONTRIBUTES to the destruction of the body, it cannot manipulate cell interaction, which is the INSTIGATOR of the disease.  It starts with cell malfunction, it results in inflammation.  So only treating the inflammation (through diet and exercise) isn't targeting the cause of the disease.  While it can and does HELP my symptoms, it doesn't manipulate the way my cells interact with one another.  Therefore, I use medications to address the cause.  I use diet and exercise, as well as medications, to address the effect.

I feel with my medications and diet adjustments I do have most of the inflammation and progression under control.  However, I find it's the fitness part of this equation that is most difficult to control due to bouts of fatigue, fevers, and muscle weakness caused by having an autoimmune disease.  It certainly doesn't make it any easier when I hear people say that exercise would have prevented my RA...because I was an athlete when diagnosed.  That should be enough to throw that theory out the window, wouldn't you think?

Maybe by charting my fitness activity I may be able to begin showing others that lack of exercise is not what caused my RA?  Also, if I begin to chart my fitness progression perhaps not only could I help to balance my treatment plan, but also I'll have a record to show doctors and family/friends what exactly I am capable to do and why?  Also, I need to find exercises that are conducive to my level of fitness, minus weights that are now too much for my joints to tolerate...but that are also challenging enough to equate an athlete level work out. I refuse to do water aerobics because I was kickboxing only a few years ago.  The stretch from extreme activity sports to water exercise is a stretch way too wide for me at this juncture in my life. 

So in my search for a happy medium, I came across a new app for iPhone called Fitness Buddy.  It allows me to track my fitness day to day, week to week, and month to month.  Why is this important for patients with Autoimmune Arthritis?  We have completely unpredictable schedules.  One morning we could wake in complete exhaustion, fever, and severe pain; 3 hours later the fog could lift and we feel like we can do a work out.  Other days the flare simply won’t subside and we may be limited in our activity for the day.  So, for me, this tracking isn’t only good to see what my activity level was during the day, or last week, or last month, there is also a space for me to type in notes.  I use those notes to track my disease activity in regards to how active I was able to be on any given day.  I can use this information to help myself understand my abilities as well as to help educate others about what I am able to do, what I cannot do, and why.
Another great feature of this app is that there are literally 1,000’s of exercises in the database.  They range from stretching on a mat to using a resistance band to weight machine options.  So regardless of my level of damage from Autoimmune Arthritis, my level of disease effect on any given day, or my athletic ability, I can surely find something to do for exercise with such an array of options.  Not only does the Fitness Buddy list this array of exercises, it provides both written and visual illustrations of every selection in their resource library.  They even have a video option!  The downfall? It does take a while to go through those exercises that I feel would be applicable for me, and it’s admittedly a little difficult to understand exactly how and where to save my customized programs I create from the resources, but I’m sure once I get past my technically challenged hang ups this could be exactly the type of resource I’ve been looking for to help keep me on track physically.  Now, it may not ever debunk the myth that lack of exercise is a contributor to getting RA, but it could help me to complete my treatment program of proper medicine, diet, and fitness, as well as educate others on my physical capabilities and limitations?

I’ll be looking more into this app and letting you know of my successes, challenges, and/or failures in using it.  But in the meantime, please check it out and let me know what you think (link below). I’m excited to finally have something to monitor my fitness so that I can pair it with my anti-inflammatory diet and medication, all working together to keep my genetic issues under control!

Fitness Buddy (App) -

Saturday, August 25, 2012

One year and eight months

What can a person do in one year and eight months? 
  • You could go from getting your driver's license to leaving for college.
  • You could meet someone, fall in love and get married.
  • You could have a baby...twice!
Alot can occur in just under two years.

The American College of Rheumatology understands the seriousness of Autoimmune Arthritis diseases and recommends, if possible, a diagnosis and start of treatment 6 months after ONSET in order to best strengthen the chances of future remission.  6 months is a long time to live with pain, fevers and fatigue and no treatment plan.  One year and eight months is an unacceptable time to live with pain, fevers and fatigue and no treatment plan.

My chart used to record symptoms and progression when no one would diagnose me.
 The chart above is the chart I brought into the office of my 2nd rheumatologist.  My first rheumatologist diagnosed me with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD) which is when none of your symptoms match a particular disease enough for any one specific diagnosis.  This was in late June of 2008, one year after my symptoms started.  Look at my chart.  By this time I had inflammation in my chest, my left foot/toes, both ankles, both knees, both wrists, both hands/fingers, both elbows and my tailbone.  This was paired with extreme fatigue and fevers (which I recorded on a different chart).  You could actually see the dates a new "spot" started and then look on the fatigue and fever chart and see they were elevated on the same day. 

This rheumatologist refused to treat me with medications, stating that because it's UCTD she needed to "wait until I got worse so she could properly diagnose it according to the disease progression."  I left the office and cried.  I had done enough research by this time to know that DMARDS were the only proven treatment to stop what was happening to me and that any damage was permanent.  She wanted me to get worse and I had no education to tell me this is NOT correct procedure.

Six more months went by and it only spread to 2 more areas- my right foot and my neck. This still wasn't enough for her to put me on treatment.  I ended up at my General Practitioners office at the end of January 2009 with what I thought to be an ear infection.  The left side of my face was swollen and I could hardly open my mouth.  I was sweating profusely from a fever that wouldn't break for 2 weeks.  I was sleeping over 16 hours a day and felt like I had the flu.  After an exam the doctor looked at me and said, "This isn't your ear, this is inflammation of your jaw joint."  The fever, fatigue and nausea wasn't coming from an infection it was coming from inflammation.  He informed me that I should not go back to the original rheumatologist but rather visit one he knew could help me.  I was sent to the new rheumatologist on an emergency visit and was clinically diagnosed with RA and given a prescription of methotrexate before leaving the office.  Within one week my fever broke and I was back to a normal sleep schedule.

A lot can happen in one year and eight months.  In my case, I couldn't possibly think of beginning a relationship or having a child, first I had to get my health under control.  I ended up living with a disease that, due to lack of treatment, has caused me permanent disability in several areas of my body.  One year and eight months has, in essence, affected the rest of my life.  I am not about to sit back and let it do the same for the next generation of patients.

While I do try to keep this personal blog separate from my work with the International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement, I see an opportunity to help others by incorporating a chart such as this into the current development of our Medical Awareness and Educational program (launching in 2013).  IAAM is creating training tools that will be offered in both medical schools and to General Practitioners, who often are the first to see a potential Autoimmune Arthritis patient, so that they can detect these diseases earlier and thus promote early diagnosis.  I think this type of chart is necessary.  In addition to possible early diagnosis, researchers can use the information recorded to study disease progression and maybe even encourage treatments at the stage of UCTD. 

So do YOU have a chart, journal, or otherwise that YOU used to push along your diagnosis?  Would you like to donate that information to IAAM to help us create a standardized chart that could help save lives of those affected in the future? 

One year and eight months is a long time.  But in addition to creating disability in my life it created something else too.  It created time for me to get pissed.  Really pissed.  Had I not had this delay IAAM would not exist so I do believe it served it's purpose.  Now it's time to turn pissed into action.

If you have a chart, journal or other means of record you used to chart your disease progression and would like to contribute that information, please email me at

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Autoimmune Arthritis got my toe

As I got out of bed this morning, I gently swung my legs around and down to the floor, stood up, and bellowed a loud, "OWWWWW!" (and a few words not appropriate for this posting)  My toe feels sprained, I can't put any pressure on it at all.  So I begin to ask myself, "What did I do yesterday at the gym?  Did I lose my balance? Or maybe in the pool, did I stub my toe?"  I quickly looked down to investigate what must be major bruising, maybe even a cut?  "Ugh, I sprained my toe," I thought. To my surprise, here's what I saw: 

Yep.  A perfectly fine looking toe.  It wasn't an injury or sprain at all.  No bruise, no injury, nothing to the naked eye was wrong with my toe.  It was, in fact, another flare.  Autoimmune Arthritis got my toe. 

I felt the need to post this for a couple of reasons. 
1. I've lived with an Autoimmune Arthritis disease now for 6 years and I know what it feels like to have a flare, whether full blown that is paired with fatigue, fevers and flu-like symptoms, or more confined flare, such as waking to a "mystery injury".  If even I GET fooled, imagine how hard it is for those who do not have Autoimmune Arthritis to comprehend this.  I mean, look at my toe, it "looks" fine!  So, lesson number one: Having Autoimmune Arthritis can be invisible on the outside because the 'pain of the sprain' is in fact the result of cells failing to communicate with the body, thus causing an immune response. 
2. Imagine how hard this is for a doctor to understand? Having an "unexplained injury" is one of the first signs of having an Autoimmune Arthritis disease.  However, most often a person will go to a family doctor to treat their "injury" and are left with a splint and told to ice it and rest.  Shouldn't it be a red flag to doctors that if an instance to cause an injury never occurred that perhaps it's something other than a sprain?  Lesson number two: If you or someone you know has an unexplained injury, with no visible signs other than possibly swelling, consider the cause may be internal.  Also, if this occurs be proactive with your care.  Take your temperature.  These 'flares' are often paired with fever given your body is trying to attack what it believe to be unhealthy cells.  In addition note how tired you feel (if at all).  When flaring one of the most common symptoms is fatigue.  If there is a low grade fever (at any time during this episode) and/or you feel unusually fatigued, tell your doctor to consider this is associated with the mystery injury.

I am lucky.  Those in my life try to understand my disease and do not need visual proof that something is wrong.  But I'm not in the majority.  Unfortunately there are many patients who do not have the support of family and friends because if they can't see it they don't believe it.  The reality is, however, that with Autoimmune Arthritis diseases if you "see it" then it's because it's advanced.  In time, if not treated properly, body parts can begin to shift from the inflammation as well as attack organs. 

I have Autoimmune Arthritis affect so many parts of my body, from countless joints to connective tissues (often in my chest, it feels like I'm having a heart attack but it's the connective tissues flaring between my ribs) to soft tissues (particularly my tongue), but my skin, teeth and eyes are affected as well.  Yet, even though these affected areas all started with that mystery injury, I still somehow always first default to "what did I do to injure myself?"  But the fact of the matter is it 'feels' like a sprain but it's not a sprain.  I have a small fever today and had a tough time waking up.  So while that toe may not look serious, and it's in the early stages of disease activity, it is serious...because it means the disease is spreading.  Autoimmune Arthritis got a lot of my body already and now it got my toe. 

I'm hoping some of you can use this blog entry to show others what it looks like and feels like in the very early stages and where it goes if the cells and immune system cannot be controlled.  Just because it's not always visible doesn't mean it's not serious.  We all start out invisible.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Autoimmune Arthritis Made Me Dislike Baseball Fields

I was seven years old the first time I stepped onto a baseball field to play my first game. My first time up at bat, first pitch, first swing...POW... the ball soared into the outfield! I ran to first base and stopped.  The coaches were yelling, "GO!" I ran to second and stopped.  "Keep going!" they hollered.  As I ran to 3rd the coach was already screaming, "Don't stop!" and pointing me home.  Scared, I slid, but the throw never even made it to the plate.  I was home safe!

Fast forward thirty years.

At age 37 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but between age 7 and about 35 I was still active in sports, especially softball.  I remember playing for a company co-ed team, stepped up to bat and all the men walked forward, expecting "the girl" to ground out or pop fly.  I swung and smacked that sucker over all of their heads.  I could hear my little league coaches yelling, "GO!" and I kept on running.  This time, however, I stopped at third.  The men in the field seemed a little better at fielding the ball than the 7 year old little girls.  The next time I stepped up to bat the pitcher looked around and called out, "Step back, give her some respect!"

I am now 41 and I haven't swung a bat in 6 years.  Even if I go into remission, my softball days are over, for I have permanent damage in my wrist.  I miss softball, so much so I dream of it often. When I wake I feel saddened that at only 41 that part of my life is over.  Then there are the days when I walk past the fields, like the one down the street from my apartment (shown on the left).  I always look at it and have memories of running the bases, hitting a homerun and sliding in to home base...and I find myself hating the sight of the baseball field.

When you become affected with an Autoimmune Arthritis disease, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, unless you get diagnosed early or are able to obtain the proper treatment within 6 months after ONSET, chances are it will steal part of your life and your identity, becoming at times as much of a mental struggle as a physical one.  The "Who am I now?" phenomenon gets to many of us, but, in reality, doesn't it happen to everyone at some point in their lives?  How many 70 year olds do you see playing on that field?  We all have to give in to our demising physicality at some point, so it's really the UNEXPECTED loss of ability that many Autoimmune Arthritis patients deal with than the disability itself.  So the key, naturally, is to focus more on what we CAN do.

In saying that, I'm not going to lie, that's a lot easier said than done. I think there will always be a part of me that yearns for that last time at bat, that last run around the bases and that last slide into home base.  But the key to moving forward, for me, is to remember those coaches screaming at me as I ran my first lap around the bases... "GO!" "Keep going!" "Don't stop!"  because I know that it's not the softball player in me that needs to hit the homerun or run the bases, it's the aggressive, go-getting, team player that did that....and she's still living strong inside of me. I plan to have many, many people in my life take notice of what I CAN do, look around and say, "Step back, give this girl some respect!"  Sure, I may never like baseball fields again, but I could see them becoming a little more tolerable.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Type of Arthritis Makes Me Vomit

Flu-like symptoms
Inflammation in neck, jaw and tongue
At 3am I was awaken by a mixture of pain and severe nausea.  My mouth was watering as I attempted to prevent myself from vomiting, but due to an inflamed esophogus it made swallowing difficult so I ended up toggling between choking and gagging.  My body was aching in too many places to count, in a way that resembles being beaten or recovering from an accident or injury.  There was no need to take my temperature, the sweat saturating my pillow case was enough proof that my body was in full attack.  The fatigue and stiffness was so extreme that I struggled to get out of bed, and as I did I could feel the saliva accumulating, stinging the sores that align my tongue and the other soft tissue in my mouth.  I did manage to make it to the bathroom in time to relieve the nausea and then return to bed to get some sleep til morning.

Most people who awake in the middle of the night with these symptoms probably think, "I have the flu," and may grab some medicine from the cabinet and consider calling in to work the next morning.  However, I am not dealing with the flu, I'm dealing with a disease. I can't go to the medicine cabinet and find something to make this better.  There is no cold or flu medicine that can ease the symptoms and over-the-counter pain relievers cannot touch this level of inflammation.  I just have to wait out the flare, which could be gone by morning or could last for several days.  If it gets too bad my option would be to visit the ER for pain medication or cortizone injections.  I try to consume peppermint to help with the nausea.

Exhaustion even after rest
This situation happened last night, which instigated this post today.  I want people to know, in the moment, what it feels like to have Rheumatoid Arthritis (or Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Still's Disease or the other Autoimmune Arthritis diseases).  It's been 10 hours since this episode and I have yet to injest anything other than 2 pieces of dry toast and some seltzer water.  I am completely exhausted and winded, yet I haven't done anything past lie in bed or sit on the sofa. I can't quite tell you exactly every place that hurts because Rheumatoid Arthritis is an Autoimmune Arthritis, not a Degenerative Arthritis.  This means it affects not only the joints but also the soft and connective tissues and sometimes organs.  Also, because it's an autoimmune disease, it causes severe muscle weakness, fatigue and fevers and the pain jumps without notice because it is caused by cell interaction, not overuse. 

So how will this affect my day?  My fingers are swollen and so sore some would find it tough to type, but I think I'm so used to it that I just fight through the pain.  Laundry is taken off of the to do list, for even if I could get the loads to the washer, unloading, folding and putting the clothes away wouldn't be possible due to weakness in my wrists, forarms, shoulders and tricep area.  Also, I live alone so there isn't anyone to help get the laundry back up the stairs. After the nausea subsides I need to make lunch, which will be dependant on what I can physically make and what isn't too acidic as to agitate the soft tissue flare in my mouth.  Later this afternoon I will likely need to nap, which I detest.  I have always felt naps were a waste of time, however, my body will soon shut down and I will be left without a choice.  Those without Autoimmune Arthritis may find this rescheduling and reworking daily tasks frustrating, but for me it's become a way of life. 

The type of arthritis I have is Autoimmune Arthritis.  It causes me to rearrange my day, at any given time, due to fatigue, fevers, exhaustion, joint pain and muscle weakness.  It causes sores and inflammation in my soft tissue, particularly on my tongue; when my jaw joint flares at the same time I may go a whole day on a liquid diet because it's twice as hard to open my mouth or to chew food.  It wakes me up in the middle of the night and makes me vomit.

All arthritis isn't the same.  If you have any type of arthritis, before you say "I have that too" to another patient, know what type you have and what type they have...because if your arthritis doesn't make you vomit, or at least cause nausea or flu-like symptoms, it may not be the same type of arthritis.

This post is based on personal experience and is not resourced to facts from any other source. 
Learn more about differentiating your arthritis at

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Let's Tip the Scale to Better Understand Arthritis Types

For years we've seen this statement: "The most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)." Arthritis, defined, means joint inflammation.  So in essence this sentence reads, "The most common types of joint inflammation are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)."  There are two major issues with this statement.

First, this statement suggests that both OA and RA only involve joint inflammation.  While this is true of OA, it is not true for RA:

Osteoarthritis (OA)
  • Limited to joint involvement primarily in the weight bearing joints
  • It is caused by degeneration due to age, wear and tear, injury or excessive weight, that leads to cartilage damage
  • It is treated primarily with over-the-counter medications, diet and exercise
  • Advanced cases lead to complete wearing away of cartilage, causing disability and, at times, joint replacement surgery

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
  • Can involve any joint in the body, as well as connective and soft tissues and sometimes organs
  • In addition to the physical pain, patients also experience fevers, severe fatigue and flu like symptoms
  • It is an autoimmune disease caused by cell malfunction that causes major inflammation that damages joints, tissues and organs.  It is not limited to cartilage.
  • It is treated primarily with anti-inflammatory medications, mild chemotherapy drugs and biologic injections or infusions
  • Advanced cases lead to inflammation damage to the joints, connective and soft tissues and organs, causing disability and, at times, joint replacement surgery as well as eye, skin, lung and heart issues (although any part of the body can be affected).

So yes, it is true that Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are the most common types of arthritis (joint inflammation), however, grouping them into the same sentence without explaining that one stops at arthritis (joint inflammation) and one is arthritis plus an autoimmune disease merely skews the interpretation of what RA truly encompasses.

The second issue with this statement is that Osteoarthritis affects 50% of the population. Rheumatoid Arthritis affects 3% of the population.  With a 47% margin in "common types" should these two arthritis types really be grouped together in the same sentence without differentiating them?  Without any type of separation the 1 out of 2 people who have Osteoarthritis are bound to assume that the other most common type of arthritis is much like what they are experiencing.

Here's a thought... why not group Rheumatoid Arthritis with the other diseases that are most closely related to this condition?  RA is a joint and connective tissue disease.  There are a handful of autoimmune diseases that are also both joint and connective tissue diseases, hence the term "autoimmune arthritis".  They are: Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE), Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA), Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), Still's Disease (SD), Primary Sjogren's Syndrome (SS) and Juvenile Arthritis (JA).  While SLE also affects approximately 3% of the population and PsA affects 2%, the rest combined adds millions of people to the weight of the scale. 
Also, in addition to the Autoimmune Arthritis diseases mentioned above, there are two other conditions that fit this category:  Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease/Undifferentiated Spondyloarthropathy (UCTD/USpA) and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD).  Undifferentiated disease means the patient is exhibiting symptoms of Autoimmune Arthritis but the symptoms are not clear enough for an exact diagnosis.  Mixed Connective Tissue Disease is where the patient exhibits 3 very specific diseases at the same time, often called "overlap disease", and is most commonly a combination of Lupus, Scleroderma (a primary Connective Tissue Disease) and Polymyositis (primarily a Muscle Disease).  They are still primarily joint diseases so they too are classified under the Autoimmune Arthritis category.
So now RA doesn't have to stand alone on the scale.  If you combine all of the Autoimmune Arthritis diseases they make up for approximately 10% of the population.  Now we're getting somewhere.
So let's change the statement "The two most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis" to explain actual types, thus making the scale of awareness a little more even:
"The two most common types of arthritis are Degenerative Arthritis and Autoimmune Arthritis".

Now that seems much more accurate and understandable than "The most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis."

50% to 3% isn't a fair assessment of "most common".  50% to 10%, now that certainly tips the scale towards better awareness.  While the weight of 50% is still much heavier than 10%, we still have to factor in how loud that 10% of misunderstood voices can be... now THAT is what will bring balance to the scale.

If you define and differentiate 'arthritis' people will understand.  You can help bring awareness to arthritis, just start using the politically correct language and it will happen.  Let's work together to tip the scale!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Degenerative Arthritis and the Autoimmune Arthritis diseases are the most common types of arthritis. However, Degenerative Arthritis and Autoimmune Arthritis diseases themselves are very different in onset, disease course and treatment. Arthritis, defined, means joint inflammation.

The most common type of arthritis is Osteoarthritis (OA), known also as a Degenerative Arthritis because it is caused by degeneration due to age, wear and tear, obesity or injury. Degenerative Arthritis is typically localized to the weight-bearing joints because they are the parts of the body used most often. Therefore, this type of arthritis will typically flare with use and the pain is a result of the damage that has occurred due to the degeneration.1 out of 2 people will develop some form of Osteoarthritis in their lifetime. Onset is typically over the age of 55 if due to age but it can be much earlier if caused by injury, weight or overuse. It is typically treated with over the counter medications and ointments, along with diet and exercise changes. However, over time, the damage can get extreme and joint replacement may be necessary. This type of arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the leading cause for disability leave for soldiers under the age of 40 in the military.

Autoimmune Arthritis diseases are systemic, inflammatory autoimmune diseases primarily affecting the joints. They are caused by a malfunctioning immune system. Because they are systemic (whole body) they also affect the connective and soft tissues and even organs, but what unites them as an Autoimmune Arthritis is the major joint involvement as a primary disease attribute. So while the most common type of arthritis is Degenerative Arthritis, or Osteoarthritis, the 9 Autoimmune Arthritis diseases make up the second most common type of arthritis. These are Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Still’s Disease (SD), Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA), Juvenile Arthritis (JA), Primary Sjogren's Syndrome (SS), Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) and Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease/Spondyloarthropathy (UCTD/USpA).

Because they are diseases of the immune system, less people are affected. In the United States, the combined total of patients suffering from Autoimmune Arthritis is under 10 million. Onset is typically, for children, between ages 7-9 and for adults, between ages 20-40. The pain is a result of inflammation, often explained as feeling "sprained or broken" and can be accompanied by severe fatigue, nausea and fevers. It can occur at any time, even at rest. This inflammatory pain is present in any part of the body where the cells are malfunctioning. The most common areas of joint affect are in the hands, fingers, feet, toes, ankles, hips, lower back/tailbone area, neck, shoulders, jaw and knees. The most common areas of connective and soft tissue affect are in the mouth and esophagus area and the area between the ribcage (often called Costochondritis). The most common areas of organ involvement are the eyes, skin, lungs and heart. (NOTE: ANY joint, tissue or organ can be affected with Autoimmune Arthritis. Depending on the disease some areas are typically more affected than others but overlap is common and often is cause for misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose quickly).

The recommended treatment for Autoimmune Arthritis diseases is to target reprogramming the cells not to attack one another as well as to address the inflammation that results from these attacks. To reprogram the cells, expensive medications, such as injectable or infused biologics and mild chemotherapy treatments, are typically the recommended course of treatment. These types of medications act as agents to both slow down cell production, resulting in less cells for the body to attack, as well as to manipulate the receptors to stop sending those messages to attack. The inflammation that results from the cell interaction is also treated because the higher the inflammation the more damage can occur to the joints, tissues and organs.

Here are some additional facts about Autoimmune Arthritis that you may not typically find in literature:
 Autoimmune Arthritis is not caused by a lack of exercise.

 It does not go into remission with ointments and over-the-counter medications.

 The one anti-inflammatory recipe Great Aunt Ruth suggested won't cure it. Holistic regimes, especially for the most common moderate to severe versions of these diseases, must equate chemotherapy- or strong enough to lower inflammation and manipulate cell interaction.

 Ibuprofen isn't strong enough.

 Most patients who take the chemotherapy treatments, injections or infusions, contrary to many advertisements, are not suddenly able to run, jump or play sports after starting treatment.

 You can't just have it in your knee.

 People can die from it. Matter-in-fact, approximately 10,000 people in the US alone die each year from complications due to Autoimmune Arthritis diseases.

Clearly, Degenerative Arthritis and Autoimmune Arthritis are very different. Beyond these most common arthritis diseases there are an additional 85+ arthritis-related conditions not mentioned here. If we want to start changing the way people think about these diseases, we must start by raising awareness that they are, in fact, different. So if you get angry when people think your illness is "only arthritis" then ask yourself this: Are you calling your illness arthritis (which means joint inflammation) or are you differentiating it as one of the Autoimmune Arthritis diseases?  If you are calling it arthritis (joint inflammation) can you really blame them for thinking it's only in the joints? 

Autoimmune Disease + Arthritis = Autoimmune Arthritis