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    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    My experience of rheumatoid arthritis pain

      One never realizes how much they take life for granted until they're in pain. For example, if you have a severe toothache or had a tooth extracted, although the pain may be temporary, but the only thing that you want in this world at that moment is to be free of the pain.

      Well, what if you had a condition that did not allow you to ever be pain free, and you had no choice but to accept that fact? This is unfortunately my case. I have been suffering from a condition known as rheumatoid arthritis for the last several years. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic (long-term) disease causing inflammation (swelling and pain) of the joints, such as the elbows, shoulders, wrists, fingers, knees, feet, or ankles. The symptoms typically occur in a symmetric pattern, meaning that both sides of the body are affected at the same time.

      The arthritis does cause a lot of swelling, pain and loss of movement in most of my major joints. Over the last several years, I have put up with days when I needed help to dress and other simple things. I have also broke countless items of crockery because I tried to carry things but they just fell to the floor as my grip was to week.

      I can also get flare-ups, which are fast and uncontrollable when they occur. Beyond affecting me physically, RA has affected me mentally and emotionally as well in the sense that I feel helpless and dependent on others to do even simple daily chores. I have always been an independent person, so this is really emotionally difficult for me.

      I'm not able to take Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or the newer versions of NSAIDs called Cox-2 inhibitors, since they upset my stomach too much. Steroids were an option but as they aren't advisable over the long term, I was advised to have local injections in certain joints if required, but not have tablets unless it was last resort.

      Drug therapy for rheumatoid arthritis has improved so much that it can now slow disease progression, preventing joint damage and loss of function. The earlier that treatment is started, the better the chance to slow disease progression and prevent damage and loss of function. Currently I am on strong painkillers and have been actively taking what is known as a Disease-modifying medicine (DMARDs). Mine is azulfidine (Sulfasalazine), but there are other types as well. Sulfasalazine works to reduce inflammation and other symptoms of these diseases. Like other medicines, Sulfasalazine can cause some side effects. If they occur, the side effects of Sulfasalazine are most likely to be minor and temporary. However, some may be serious and need medical attention.

      When pharmaceutical companies talk about disease progression in RA and what it feels like to live well with RA, it is definitely meaningful and informative for me because it gives me hope and "something to live for". What I like about current ads for RA medication is that they are able to make an emotional connection to sufferers by giving them hope. What I dislike, though, is that the treatments over the long run are expensive and there are no options around that.

      If I could create an ad for a prescription RA medication, I would like to address both the physical as well as the emotional issues involved. My message to others would be that they are not alone and that thousands of others are suffering just as they are. I would convey that there IS help available and, the sooner you start, the better your outcome can be and the better your quality of life will be. I think this message should be delivered both as a commercial and as a magazine ad, because it would have a broader outreach and help more sufferers that way.