2014 in Review: Living Bold and the Basics of RA

Patient Expert

A year ago, I wrote about our theme for 2014 being Back to Basics, committing to bringing you content that could help you become more health literate and empowered. I'll tell you more about how we did that in a minutes, but first, I want to remind you of another way in which we went back to basics.

Living Bold, Defining Moments

Who are you? What made you who you are? These are the central questions asked in HealthCentral's Live Bold profiles, one of which was of me, your intrepid Community Leader It tells the story of a huge flare that became a turning point in my life.

We also used this concept of a defining moment in a series of slideshow profiles of the RA site team of writers to help you get to know them. Brad and Lisa shared their stories of how they became advocates and Leslie told the story of how she switched careers, from being a graduate student in sociology to getting a Masters in Health Advocacy. Marianna's story was of her lifelong addiction to swimming, Britt told us about finding a way back to being physically active, and Vanessa told the story of regaining her garden.

We'd love to hear what you think of these stories and to hear about your defining moment in the comment section or a separate SharePost.

Building Knowledge of RA

Our 2014 Back to Basics theme was intended to help you build a solid foundation of knowledge about RA as a starting point to living better with the condition. Knowing the early signs of RA is an important part of getting a referral to see a rheumatologist as soon as you can. Tracking your symptoms can help you prepare for your appointments, as can understanding RA blood tests. The approach to treatment of RA has changed with the advent of new medications, making it increasingly possible for you to function better. That said, many of us still need some extra help now and again. That's why it's important to know the risks and benefits of steroid injections, as well as the myths about opioids. As many of the Biologics, a new treatments for RA, are immunosuppressants, learning about managing infection risks can also be an important aspect of living with RA.

Knowing more about RA also includes getting to know your disease. Learning how to read a study can expand where you get your information and help you learn new facts. For instance, did you know that there is a relationship between RA and periodontal disease? You may also have heard that RA is a systemic illness that affects other systems in the body in addition to the joints. This can lead to comorbidities of RA, such as rheumatoid vasculitis, as well as other serious complications of RA. It's also important to realize that not all your symptoms can be blamed on RA and that there may in fact be ways to address issues such as fatigue.

Learning to Manage RA

Just as certain medical basics can help you build a better understanding of RA, there are basics to starting life with RA. One of these is the concept of self-care. The essential aspects of taking good care of yourself when you have RA are prioritizing naps whenever you can, learning to ask for help, and stocking up on practical tips for managing pain. Learning how to move differently by building your repertoire of body awareness skills can also be very useful.

Dealing with RA can be difficult and it's quite common for people who live with the disease to experience emotional difficulties, including depression during the holidays. RA can also bring physical challenges during everyday tasks, but there are ways to help you adapt and cope, for instance, making a trip to the dentist less painful.

Everyday life with RA

Once you have a better understanding of the basic medical facts and how to deal with the changes that RA brings, the next step is to take a look at your day-to-day life and how it is impacted by RA. Relationships can be challenged by this new reality, but it's important not to get isolated. It is possible to have a healthy relationship with RA, as well as a satisfying sex life.

In the past, women with RA were often advised not to have children, but that's no longer the case. However, since some RA meds can have an impact on the developing fetus, it's important to talk to your doctor early to make sure you guard against birth defects. Pregnancy with RA can have some additional challenges, but it can be a success when you and your medical team work together. If having your own biological children his not for you, there are different routes to motherhood.

Living well with RA involves having an awareness of the many ways it can impact your life and how to reduce that impact. For instance, by knowing your rights, you can function better at work with RA.

Sometimes, the issues are not about how you are dealing with your disease, but about the perceptions of others, many of which can be rooted in the stigma of RA. This is one of the reasons many of us become advocates, working to change the perceptions of our society around RA and other types of chronic illness. Facing these misperceptions can be difficult, but we all find different ways of dealing with it. Spending time in the pool and using tips to make swimming with RA easier can be very soothing. For others, it's finding a special four-legged friend or the healing powers of nature.

These were just some of the posts we brought you in the past year. You can find more by clicking on the name of the author of the post to see their profile.

We thank you for sharing your lives with us in this past year and wish you a very happy new year!

What was your defining moment in 2014?