I was just diagnosed with mild RA. What can I expect to happen? I am 26 years old and went to the doctor for multiple joint pain. The joints that are most affected are my hands and wrists. Will I lose use of them eventually? I type for a living and love to cross stitch. I don't want to lose that ability to do these. Any ideas on how to help with the pain would be greatly appreciated.
Is true that everybody's disease progression is different, so it's impossible to tell you which direction yours will go. However, you've been diagnosed with a mild case of the disease, so hopefully, it will stay mild.
The good news is that these days, there are so many treatment options that there is every chance that you'll be able to live well with the disease for a very long time without major damage. However, even though your RA is mild, when you see a rheumatologist, they will most likely put you on one of the DMARDs (disease modifying antirheumatic drugs) - it's very important to suppress your RA as soon as possible to protect your joints from the kind of damage that can lead to changes in mobility and ability later on. When you see the rheumatologist, talk to them about pain control. The first step to controlling your pain is to control your disease and it's entirely likely that most the pain will disappear once your RA is suppressed. However, it is equally likely that you may need additional painkillers like e.g., Celebrex or Mobicox.
I've had RA for over 40 years back in "my day," there weren't any treatments for it, so my joints have been very affected by it and I've been in a wheelchair since I was 16 (in the past year, I had two separate doctors tell me that if I got RA today, I wouldn't end up in a wheelchair - that's how much treatment for this disease has changed). However, I've been able to write and type and knit until very recently and much of my difficulty in doing these things now are more related to some muscle-related injuries that have become permanent. Should you ever have problems typing, you are entitled to accommodation under the ADA - e.g., you could ask your employer to purchase a voice-recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking (for more on working with RA and links to resources, click here). you may also want to check out our area for the newly diagnosed - it contains a number of posts on the different aspects of living well with RA.
I have always had severe ra since it came on, so I'm not sure about the course of mild ra. From my own experience, it gets much worse in the winter months, so you should expect an increase in pain and swelling as the weather gets colder. About the typing, my wrist right now is extremely swollen and painful, but I'm typing with little trouble to you. I've never done stitching myself, but I have a hard time getting dressed some days, so I gather stitching for me wouldn't be possible. Everyone's disease progression is different, so it's hard to say you'll experience anything for certain. And you may have a remission, which I've read happens to some people. Visit with a rheumatologist, if you haven't already. I haven't tried many meds, but they work wonders for a lot of people. Best to you!