Patients living with more than one chronic disease face unique challenges. Unfortunately, comorbidities seem more and more common especially with autoimmune diseases. As someone living with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, I am understandable drawn to other patients who live with the same combination of diseases.
This week is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week so I asked a few MS/RA patients to share their stories with us today. Six patients were kind enough to contribute. Diagnosed with RA before MS, patients AH, CL, and Momuv6Boys09 (MB) share their stories below. Stories from patients diagnosed with MS first can be found on MS Central.
When were you diagnosed with MS and when were you diagnosed with RA?
AH: I was diagnosed with RA a few months before my diagnosis of MS in 2008. Having the two diseases together somehow tripped up getting a diagnosis.
MB: I was diagnosed with RA first. It was the MS symptoms that had me looking for a diagnosis and they found the RA. I cant remember the dates on the RA diagnosis right now. The MS diagnosis was last year in May or June.
CL: I was diagnosed with RA one year before my MS diagnosis [in 2007].
What are your primary MS-related and RA-related symptoms? Which disease seems to cause the most concern for you?
AH: RA has many of the same symptoms and pain as MS [for me], however RA has swelling and deformed joints while MS brings paralysis. The RA causes swelling and pain in my arms and legs, and the MS causes extreme muscle pain to the point of not being able to walk or hold a cup of coffee. With the RA I have a lot of days where my hands and legs are so swollen I can't wear shoes, my watch, or long sleeve shirts. MS causes me to drag my left leg and I fall quite frequently, however I can't save myself because of the pain caused by the RA.
I am more concerned about the damage done by the RA. It's permanent and MS isn't. RA has the ability to damage my heart and cause my death as well, so I focus most of my treatment on getting it under control.
MB: Really for me RA is the worst!!! My RA symptoms [include] swelling, stiffness, and pain. My MS symptoms were not active for the last 6 months, [but] I recently started having numbness and tingling and horrible eye pain. Balance issues as well. My doctors told me last week they think I am in a FLARE.
I also have Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma) and those symptoms are painful too. My esophagus spasms and that causes a hoarse voice and sore throat. My skin feels like its on fire at times. I have Raynauds as well. I deal with a lot of pain and [take] very few pain meds. My immune system hates itself.
Have the symptoms or potential disabilities caused any challenges in your ability to continue working, enjoy hobbies, or maintain a satisfying social and family life?