It seems that I’m under attack from my own body’s immune system. I’ve joined two of my children in an auto-immune disease club. They have the auto-immune gut condition, Crohn’s disease, and I almost certainly have the auto-immune joint disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). In the past 6 months I’ve had various levels of pain in:
- cervical spine
- both hips
- both knees
- both shoulders
- both elbows
- both 1st carpo-metacarpal and metacarpo-phalangeal joints
- left 1st tarso-metatarsal joint
- right temporomandibular joint
as well as ruptured left and right Baker’s cysts. The right Baker’s cyst has probably traumatised the gastrocnemius muscle causing on-going bleeding around the muscle.
Each one of these joint problems initially seemed like degenerative disease, namely osteoarthritis. But faced with the accumulation of all these issues my GP, Dr M, suspected these were not just a whole bunch of localised problems! The fact that, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, my GP consultations all occur over the phone doesn’t help resolve complex problems.
Dr M ordered blood tests which revealed elevated indices of inflammation (CRP, ESR, RF), suggesting RA as a likely cause. A visit to a rheumatologist, Dr S, has more-or-less confirmed the diagnosis and he has commenced me on 15 mg prednisone. All the joints are now slowly but discernably improving, which supports the RA diagnosis.
Of course, prednisone will cause nasty side effects, such as worsening of my osteoporosis, increased risk of infection, and peptic ulcer. Dr S reckons there is a good chance that he’ll be able to use other, non-steroidal medication to get me into a state of remission. I told Dr S that I ran a marathon last year, but I noticed that he didn’t make any promises about what that remission might mean in terms of running. In the meantime, he says ‘gentle exercise’ is my limit. My traumatised right gastrocnemius is quite happy to stick with ‘gentle exercise’ for the moment.
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