Rheumatoid arthritis is such a widespread disease that nearly 1% of world’s population is affected by this disease; but the surprising thing is there are lots of misconceptions about this commonly occurring joint condition. Actually, RA is a mysterious disease. Continuous research is going on and new treatments are being found out constantly for it and hence perception of the disease is not clear in people’s minds. Leave apart the common people; experts too do not have a complete knowledge of Rheumatoid arthritis.
Usually the disease is confused with arthritis. But the arthritis in people’s mind is osteoarthritis, which is caused by injury or wear-and-tear of aging joints. It commonly occurs in middle to old age people. On the other hand, RA is a chronic, progressive autoimmune disease and is caused by unknown factor. Rheumatologists observe that the confusion is mostly because patients having RA also may have osteoarthritis.
Another misconception about RA is it occurs only in old age. Actually, the disease occurs anywhere between 20 and 70 and 30 to 55 is the peak age group. Even teenagers may catch RA. Elderly people may suffer from severe form of the disease, as they are living with it for longer period.
People also mistake about the seriousness of the disease and take it lightly. Actually Rheumatoid arthritis can even be life-threatening, if not treated properly and in time. There are many incidents in which people have downplayed the disease as ‘Grandma’s disease’ and missed the boat totally. People just delay seeing the physician and their joints go on damaging more and more for months and for years. Moreover, rheumatoid arthritis patients are at higher risk of heart disease and other critical conditions like infections and lung disease.
In contrast to this, some people think that RA makes the patient end up in a wheelchair or nursing home. Actually, different people show different manifestations of the disease and most of the patients can live independently. It was in old days that the condition was such, but with the course of time, there is tremendous advancement in the treatment and today most people with Rheumatoid arthritis, though not completely cured, are able to live independently with retained mobility. So also, RA patients can go to work alright. Though some of them have some limitations and require certain adjustments to be done during the flares, many of them do well too.
The most hazardous misconception is treatments for RA are toxic and it is better to wait till the disease progresses, prior to starting the treatment. There are innumerable evidences available to prove that early treatment of the disease not only slows down the progression of the disease, but also ceases it. Though it is true that some of the medicines for RA have serious side effects, side effects of untreated RA are more severe than them. And the side effects of the medicines can easily be detected by many laboratory tests.
Some people think that there is increased risk of cancer with RA which is true to some extent about lymphoma (blood cancer), but it is also a brighter side that risk of colorectal cancer is reduced with RA, though reason for both is not known. Though rheumatoid arthritis is thus a mysterious disease in many ways, you can cope up with it by knowing it correctly.