The Sweet Truth …

Exploring the health benefits of honey …

At a time when some species of bees are being listed as endangered, we are also seeing a growing health trend — honey! Or, to use a cliche, “What is old is new again”. Every gardener, from novice to seasoned pro, has seen their share of bees. We have shooed them away … taken a sting or two … and still managed to appreciate their role in pollination. Some of us have enjoyed their honey in our tea, on a warm biscuit or scone, etc. For decades, this has been a matter of preference. But, now, many are finally embracing what ancient Egyptians knew thousands of years ago. Honey is more than tasty. It’s actually good for us!

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The medicinal uses for honey seem to be endless. Many may surprise you. It has been used to treat wounds; skin problems, i.e. Eczema, Dermatitis and minor burns. A study, done with children, actually found that honey suppressed their coughs better than dextromethorphan (a drug that is considered a cough suppressant). It has also been proven to fight staphylococcus. 

For those living with Chronic illnesses, consider these facts … Honey can inhibit the development of Cancer. A 2008 study found that natural honey lessens cardiovascular risk factors in both healthy and high-risk patients. Those who took part in the study had reduced total cholesterol. It reduced their LDL-C, Triglycerides, Fasting Blood-glucose and CRP. Honey also increased their HDL-C, without increasing body weight (even in overweight patients)! The benefits of the prebiotics in several honeys, i.e. sourwood, alfalfa, honeydew, clover, eucalyptus and others, has been documented. This aids in healthy digestion. In lab tests, honey has even been shown to hamper the growth of some food-borne pathogens, i.e. E.coli and Salmonella. Tualang honey has, in studies, improved the quality of life in COPD patients. And the antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory properties of honey are beneficial to patients with a myriad of illnesses, i.e. Cancer, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Autoimmune illnesses, etc. Honey is even considered helpful to weight loss.

If many of you are finding this just too good to be true, I welcome you to visit the reference links at the end of this post. The sweet truth is that honey does contain sugar. But, unlike Refined Sugar, honey isn’t “Empty Calories”. It offers the body an abundance of good things. Honey provides the body with beneficial nutrients and minerals, i.e. potassium, iron, fiber, protein, water, fiber, sodium, phosphorous, zinc, calcium, folic acid, niacin, vitamins C and B6, riboflavin, etc. It offers amino acids, enzymes, thiamine. Some honeys may also provide magnesium, iodine and nickel. Nutrients help to dissolve fats and cholesterol. This doesn’t eliminate the need for exercise, but it does help to create a healthier you.

While scientists and doctors continue to explore what honey can do for us, it must be noted that honey should not be given to infants, under 12 months of age. Honey can contain spores. These are not harmful to older children or adults. But young infants have systems that are too delicate to ingest them.

It’s May. Spring is in full-swing and summer is a little more than five weeks away. Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are open. Take a moment. Stop by. Indulge your senses with the sights and smells of the fresh produce. Explore the crafts and other items. Take a healthier approach to your shopping and your eating. Have some fun, in the process. And, by all means, don’t forget the honey! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/medicinal-uses-of-honey#1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23298140

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406168/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658361217300963

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/bumblebees-endangered-extinction-united-states/

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/animal-product/benefits-of-honey-in-weight-loss.html

http://www.localfarmmarkets.org/

* Photo by Amelia Bartlett on Unsplash

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We Are Our Brother’s Keeper

Mental Health America is a non-profit that is dedicated to the needs of those with Mental illness and their families. While you may have not heard of them, the organization was founded in 1909. For over 65 years, they have turned the month of May into a time of awareness. With over 200 affiliates in 41 states, MHA is a hardworking national as well as grassroots advocacy. And the need is real.

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Unlike other Chronic illnesses, Mental illness is more difficult to diagnose. There is no simple blood-test, or x-ray. But strides have been made in the process, with the help of modern neuroimaging and genetics. Scientists today are working to uncover the biological keys of mental disorders. And the more that we learn … the more we can help patients to lead better lives. Healthier ones.

If you or a loved one has a Chronic illness, this should be something to applaud and pray for. No matter the initial diagnosis, i.e. Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Heart Disease, Cancer, etc., many chronically ill patients [at one time or another] will also be diagnosed with Depression and/or Anxiety. Setbacks can take a toll — physically, emotionally & mentally. Such forms of Mental illness can often be like that uninvited house-guest and much more troubling. Overcoming one becomes a separate struggle in itself — a difficult complication. Often times, an overwhelming one. 

Chronically Mentally Ill is a medical (and legal) term for a patient who has been diagnosed with a major mental disorder by a licensed physician, i.e. Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, etc. Their illness has led to at least one hospitalization. It impairs their ability to work, their relationships, their thinking and their mood. 

The prevalence of Mental illness in American society isn’t a myth. It isn’t an issue that we can afford to avoid. From the Christian perspective, we are our brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9, NIV). God challenges us to think of others and not just ourselves. For those less devout, consider the numbers involved. Approximately, 1 in 5 adults struggle with a form of Mental illness. That’s over 48M people. And 1 in 25 adults, roughly 9M, live with a serious Mental illness. Over 20% of our youth experience a severe Mental disorder, at some point in their lives. 

From the social standpoint, 26% of America’s homeless are living on the streets with a serious Mental illness. About 46% live with a severe Mental illness or substance use disorder. If they are lucky, they are able to find refuge in a shelter. If that shelter has an on-site clinic, they can get the medical attention that they need. But, often times, these individuals receive little help — becoming recipients of sporadic, revolving-door healthcare. Just over 50% of America’s children, ages 8-15, received mental health services last year. Did you know that half of all Chronic Mental illness presents itself by the age of 14? Three-fourths will show symptoms, by age 24. And, unfortunately, long delays can exist in treatment. This isn’t uncommon, no matter the socioeconomic factors involved. Years, sometimes decades, can pass from the time symptoms first appear until medical treatment is actually received.

As a result, Mental illness costs America over $190B in lost earnings each year. Approximately 37% of students with a Mental health condition, who are being served by Special Education will drop-out (ages 14-21). Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death. More than 90% of children who die from suicide suffer from a form of Mental illness. It’s also estimated that we are losing 18-22 military veterans every day to suicide. Most mentally ill patients are not violent. That noted, 3-5% of all violence — including those where firearms are used — can be attributed to serious mental illness. These facts cannot be ignored. The loss … the pain … endured by patients and families is really immeasurable. The loss to our society goes without saying. These patients/families need our  support. We are facing a crisis that, left unattended, will surely worsen. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It isn’t the time to look the other way, or pretend that the facts do not exist. It isn’t the time to try and convince yourself that this “problem” doesn’t concern you. We are all in this journey called life, together. Now is the time to embrace the statistics … look in the mirror … and ask, “How can I make a difference?”

 

Reference Links:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/about-us

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/roots.aspx

https://definitions.uslegal.com/c/chronically-mentally-ill/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/chronic-mental-illnesses

https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Images/FactSheets/Bipolar-Disorder-FS.pdf

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218235/

https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers

http://www.amhca.org/blogs/joel-miller/2017/10/03/gun-violence-and-mental-illnessmyths-and-evidence-based-facts

* Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash

 

 

Addison’s Awareness & Butterflies …

The next time you are sitting in a garden, or on a park bench … admiring the beauty … soaking-up the warmth of early Spring … look around and see if you can spot a butterfly. Watch them as they glide through the air … fluttering from one flower to the next … teasing your senses … almost daring you to follow them. Then, try to take note of how many — if any — are blue. As strange as it may sound, blue butterflies are rare. The Palos Verdes Blue is the rarest butterfly in the world. Perhaps, this has helped to make blue butterflies the perfect symbol for a lot of things including Addison’s Disease? Approximately, 40-60 people out of every million are diagnosed with Addison’s. It too is rare and deserves our attention. Since April is Addison’s Disease Awareness Month, there is no better time to start a discussion …

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Addison’s, also known as Adrenal Insufficiency Disorder, is the result of severe or total deficiency of the hormones that are made in the Adrenal cortex. The Adrenal glands, located above each kidney, are two endocrine (hormone producing) glands that function as one. Addison’s effects both genders, equally. It discriminates against no one. Onset of the disease usually occurs between 20-50 years of age. However, young children and teens have also been diagnosed. And Addison’s can be life-threatening.

The symptoms usually develop slowly, but they should never be ignored:

  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin
  • Severe fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal issues, i.e. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Salt cravings

If you, or a loved one, has experienced any of these symptoms, you should see your physician immediately. Early diagnosis is crucial to a patient’s quality of life, even years after the disease first presents itself.

Simple tests, along with a discussion of your medical history, are used to make the diagnosis. Treatment for Addison’s will include Hormone Replacement Therapy to correct levels in the patient’s body. This may be administered orally, or by injection. Sodium intake is also important, especially if it is hot weather … rigorous exercise is planned … or stomach issues are present.

April is Addison’s Awareness Month. So, read about it. Talk about it. Google it. Help others to be more informed. Addison’s patients are just like everyone else. They have dreams, goals, jobs and plans. They go to school, work and marry. They enjoy the same things that the rest of us do, i.e. movies, sports, shopping, music, painting, travel, etc. Illness does not define them. It is just part of who they are. And they are capable of great things. One of them became the 35th President of the United States!

Chronic illness, if anything, teaches patience and perseverance. Addison’s patients know this. They live by it. And they have normal life expectancy. So, please, treat them normally. They are our loved ones, friends, neighbors and co-workers. They just have Addison’s. They manage their condition. They live their lives. And if we can offer a little encouragement … a smile … some support … it’s appreciated. Understanding, like acceptance, matters.

Remember those butterflies? Each one goes through four life stages, before it gets its wings. Yet, the end result is beautiful. The next time you see one, whether it is blue or not, think about Addison’s Disease. Then, spread the word. Awareness is priceless!

 

Reference Links:

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/addisons-disease/

http://www.nadf.us/adrenal-diseases/addisons-disease/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350293

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350296

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P01979

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23322510

https://www.dailystrength.org/group/addison-s-disease

http://www.butterflyinsight.com/blue-butterfly-color-meaning-and-myths.html

*Photo by Ashley Rich on Unsplash

It Is Well With My Soul

If you have a Chronic illness, then you have experienced that Twilight Zone moment when your diagnosis was first given. A part of you is hearing what the doctor is saying. The other part is almost in shock — engulfed with disbelief. This is the start of an emotional, physical and often times spiritual rollercoaster. One that none of us asked to ride on. One that seems hopelessly out of our control. Or is it? I have heard the diagnosis of a Chronic illness, more than once. Multiples are not unusual. Millions of patients can attest to that. And I have asked, “Why me?” But I have also asked, “Why not me?” One of the most important things that any patient of a Chronic illness can do is embrace it. Those words are easier said than done. I know. Still, they beg the question: Have you accepted your diagnosis?

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A Chronic illness is not the same as being terminally ill. Yet, there are five stages of grief involved: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The life you had is gone. This is your new normal. Many of the things that you once did are lost to an affliction that you didn’t ask for. And, if you are like most patients, you don’t feel that you deserve. It’s a lot to take in. It doesn’t seem fair. Why is this happening? You lament about what you could have done differently. Some seem to have done everything right and still they are diagnosed with a Chronic illness. It’s confusing, irritating and overwhelming. While you are trying to cope with medications, treatment, side-effects, lifestyle changes, symptoms and emotions … you may also be wrestling with your spiritual beliefs.

Faith is easy to have, when life is good. It becomes a different ballgame, in difficult times. Some people question their faith, when life gets hard. They may even become angry with God — confused by the turmoil that has engulfed their comfort zone. Often times, adults drift away from church and faith. There isn’t a specific reason. It just happens. The diagnosis of a Chronic illness can bring them back. They now need the assurance, hope and peace that faith provided. Those things they shrugged aside — took for granted. For others, who have never had a religious belief system, difficulty can actually lead them to faith. It’s a very personal walk, down an often lonely path. If you are struggling with your faith, you may be asking, “Why did God let this happen to me?” And that’s a good question. We don’t always understand why, at the moment we are going through an ordeal. It may take months — even years — to know. But one day, we will understand (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Personally, I believe that God has a plan for each of us. To get us where He needs us, God uses every tool. He doesn’t create our suffering, but he allows good to flourish from it. He knows that in these difficult moments, we are gaining insight … serving as examples … literally inspiring others. Good emerges. In Romans 8:28, we are told, “… God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

If you take a few moments to look through the Holy Bible, you’ll note that affliction and suffering are ever present. In fact, there are at least 14 words in Hebrew and Greek that translate to “affliction”. Think about that. Suffering is part of this earthly world. It always has been. None of us are immune. Chronic illnesses, i.e. Alcoholism, Mental illness, Atrophy, Leprosy, Epilepsy, Obesity, Glaucoma/Blindness, etc., were present in biblical times. What you are experiencing isn’t new. Such afflictions have been around for centuries.

Today, thanks to modern medicine, we have options that make living with Chronic illness much easier. Even modern society has changed — becoming more accepting of those who suffer from these diseases. Yes, there are still problems to be addressed. Awareness continues to be a need. The more people understand, the better off that we become as a society. Healthier living. Preventative measures. Learning has its rewards. We cannot control human nature. There will, unfortunately, always be individuals who are bigoted, who discriminate, who bully, who judge, etc. But we can pray for them. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

If you have a Chronic illness, work towards accepting it. Stay optimistic. Take the necessary steps — changes —  to manage your health. It will provide much needed stability to your life. Learn to live each and every day to the fullest. Appreciate what you can do. Maintain a clear perspective — set a few goals. Avoid additional stress. Count your blessings. Your life has changed before. Think about it. Perhaps, it was when you went off to college? Or when you entered military service? Or marriage? This isn’t the end of the world. This is a new journey. So embrace it, as I have. It isn’t the path that I would have chosen. And you probably feel the same. But it is well with my soul.

Have a Blessed Easter.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/july-online-only/doesgodallowtragedy.html

http://www.jennifermartinpsych.com/yourcolorlooksgoodblog/2013/09/the-five-stages-of-grief-for-chronic.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-affliction.html

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/diseases-bible

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

*Photo by Caleb Frith on Unsplash

Should I Take Generics?

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If you manage to celebrate your 65th birthday, free of any chronic illness, by all means consider yourself lucky. More than half of America’s population is living with at least one chronic condition, i.e. Mental illness, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, HIV, Cancer, Epilepsy, Hypertension, Addiction, etc. If you are one of those individuals, then you know how expensive and confusing it can be. Medication isn’t the sole issue, but it is a large part of the equation. And as the cost of medication continues to rise, you feel the pinch on your budget. Frustration. Worry. So, you begin to think about your options. With a chronic illness, you cannot risk doing without your medication. Though, unfortunately, some have resorted to such decisions. But you can consider alternatives. Generics offer a very viable solution.

When a company creates a Brand-name drug, a lot of research goes into its development. Once the FDA gives their approval, a 20-year patent is issued. And the drug goes on the market. When that patent expires, a Generic version can be created. Because it requires less research/development expense, a Generic costs less — usually 30-80% less!

I am not here to promote any specific company, or drug. I am here to inform. What many people do not realize is that a Generic drug is a chemically-equivalent version of a Brand-name drug. The FDA requires that Generics have the same active ingredient, dosage, safety strength, usage directions, quality and performance as the Brand-name drugs they copy. They work in the same way. And, like Brand-name drugs, they are manufactured in FDA-inspected facilities.

There are two types of Generic drugs: Generic Substitution and Therapeutic Exchange. A Generic Substitution drug is the equivalent of the Brand-name drug, on the molecular level. The Therapeutic Exchange is a little different. Think of it as comparing store-brand products with Brand-name products. It is a molecular-related substitute, but not exactly the same.

Generic drugs play a pivotal role in the management and treatment of chronic illnesses. One study estimated that the use of Brand-name drugs for the treatment of blood-pressure, in a non-diabetic patient, can cost up to $52K per year. That same patient, using Generics, spends under $8K per year. Which would you prefer to pay?

Best of all, Generics do work. I have spoken to many people, with a variety of chronic illnesses, who made the decision to switch to Generics. Like myself, they found that the Generic drug performed as well as the Brand-name drug. Health insurers and government programs also approve of their use. In many cases, pharmacies will automatically fill a prescription with the Generic version unless they are instructed to use the Brand-name drug.

All medications, Generic or Brand-name, have side-effects. There is no perfect pill, capsule, injection, etc. Finding the right medication is often a process of trial and error … searching … trying … sometimes trying again … then finding the one that works for you. And a couple of Generics, as with a few Brand-name drugs, have been disappointing. Still, the vast majority of Generics are not only safe … they are very effective!

If you are wondering about the use of Generics, talk to your doctor. Ask questions. Be candid with your concerns. He/She can give you information on the Generics that are available for treating your condition/s. You can also visit the FDA Generic Drug Program on their website. You have a choice. Perhaps, it’s time to consider making it?

 

Reference Links:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161025092655.htm

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/buying-generic-drugs-201607159982

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21734210

http://healthsmart.com/SmarterHealth/GenericVsBrandDrugs.aspx

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/article/how-good-are-generic-drugs

https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/GenericDrugs/ucm167991.htm

*Photo by Pina Messina on Unsplash

The Healing Power of A Pet

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Those of us who are pet owners know how wonderful they are. We brag on them, dote on them, etc.  Those of us, who are also parents, may even distinguish between our children as “those with fur” and “those without”. Our pets live with us, play with us and travel with us. They comfort — even mourn — with us. They are a member of our family and we love them. But did you know that these adorable pets … with their soulful eyes … precocious personalities … cunning wit … and slobbery kisses … actually have the ability to heal?

The U.S. Dog Registry divides dogs (of any breed) into three categories:

  • Service Dogs help with a function/s for a person with a disability, i.e. Blind, Deaf, PTSD, MS, etc.
  • Emotional Support Dogs help people with emotional problems by providing support and comfort, i.e. Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders.
  • Therapy Dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers. They are often sent, in the wake of horrific events, i.e. the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL.

But what they all accomplish is that they make a positive impact on the people that they interact with. These pets improve the lives of every human that they touch.

Children with Autism were significantly more engaged, when animal therapy was incorporated into their sessions instead of using the standard approach. The children used more language. They exhibited more social interaction. All positive. All heathful.

Cancer patients have improved from pet therapy, also known as Animal-assisted Therapy or AAT. A session of animal interaction, lasting between 5-15 minutes, provides a welcomed distraction from difficult treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It brightens their day, lifts their spirits and offers a myriad of benefits overall. In fact, AAT has proven to be so effective time and again for many illnesses that the medical community is embracing the idea more than ever before — regularly including it in patient care.

Seniors, who often live alone, also benefit from owning a pet. A pet can provide mental stimulation, erase loneliness, give them a reason to walk around the block and a companion to do it with. Pet interaction has the ability to lessen, even diminish, overall pain. And many seniors live with chronic illnesses that cause a lot of discomfort.

When we are bonding with a pet, we are in the company of a dear friend — a confidante. As a result, our blood pressure lowers … muscles relax … stress fades. On the chemical level, a pet decreases cortisol in our blood. It can raise levels of the brain chemical dopamine that makes us feel good. We are happier and more positive. And when we reach out … touching their fur … rubbing their back … talking to them … we experience an increase of immunoglobulin A. That antibody boosts our immune system. Hormones like serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin are released, when we are rubbing that fuzzy belly or rolling a tennis ball across the floor. Our mood is lighter. We’re smiling … laughing … enjoying life.

Have you hugged your pet, today? Have you felt the nuzzle of a cold nose against your cheek? Or was it soft purring? We all should be so lucky. That furry companion, who greets us at the door, is actually good for us!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/healing-power-pets

https://www.curetoday.com/community/mike-verano/2015/12/cancer-and-the-healing-power-of-pets

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/benefits-of-elderly-owning-pets-113294.htm

https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.psychologytoday.com/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/from-cancercare/animal-assisted-therapy-enhances-cancer-care/article/372518/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342

* Photo by the author

Moving On: Life With RA & JRA

Twenty years ago, I rode a bicycle or stationary-bike daily. I used to pedal almost effortlessly, for 5-10 miles. And I loved it — lived for it. At home or on vacation, if I could score the use of one, I was pedaling hard. Cycling was something that I couldn’t seem to outgrow. What a difference two decades, age and a diagnosis can make …

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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. Without proper treatment, it can wield unimaginable damage, i.e. joint deformities and even disability (in some patients). It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. And RA can also impact the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels.

Despite the social myth of grannies in rocking chairs, Rheumatoid Arthritis isn’t a disease exclusive to the elderly. It’s very much the opposite. Onset for adults, is usually between the ages of 30-60. In other words, highly productive years. Like other rheumatic illnesses, women are three times more likely than men to be diagnosed. Juvenile RA (also known as Juvenile idiopathic arthritis) is what the disease is referred to when it presents itself in children. There are approximately 300K children, in the U.S., living with JRA. Toddlers, under the age of two, have even been diagnosed with it.

The onset of RA can develop over a matter of a few weeks, or a few months. Many symptoms actually mimic those of influenza. This was my personal experience. It wasn’t until my joints swelled, about 12-14 days later, that I realized I wasn’t fighting the flu.

By now, you may be wondering about heredity. One study showed that genetics played a role in slightly more than half of all diagnosed cases. My great-grandmother, who I barely remember, had Rheumatoid Arthritis. The disease skipped two generations and then found me. It happens. But there are thousands who are diagnosed with no hereditary link. In other words, there is no certainty that having a family member with RA will equate to a diagnosis in you. Even in a study done on identical twins, who share the same genes, only 15% were likely to be diagnosed with RA.

Simple tests like labwork, x-rays, MRI and ultrasound, are used to achieve a diagnosis. Your family physician may order them, or refer you to a Rheumatologist who will do so. Your RF Factor (get used to that term) measures the amount of RF antibody present in the blood. About 70-80% of all adults, who are diagnosed with RA, will have a high RF Factor. Approximately 50% of children will also have it. Those who do are more likely to have RA in adulthood. Some JRA patients can outgrow the disease.

Since RA is considered chronic (lasting longer than 3 mos.), there is no cure. The disease will progress with time. Each patient will experience periods of remission (when symptoms are barely present) and “flares” (when the disease increases its activity within the body).

Treatment for RA and JRA is very similar. Exactly how any patient, adult or child, is treated depends upon the severity of the disease in their bodies. Doctors often prescribe NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to help reduce inflammation. DMARDs  (Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) are also prescribed to slow the progression of the RA. Possibly the most common of these is Methotrexate — a chemotherapy drug. Let that sink in, for a moment. It may be administered orally, by injection, even IV. And it can bring many of the side-effects that are seen in Cancer patients (who are taking much higher doses). Biologic DMARDs, i.e. Orencia, Enbrel, Humira, etc., are also possible treatment options. Your doctor will discuss, at length, which treatment approach is best for you and why. Teens with JRA are typically referred to an “adult” Rheumatologist, around the age of 17-18 years. For many patients, occupational therapy and surgery is sometimes needed as the disease progresses.

I cannot lie to you, or sugarcoat it. RA and JRA changes lives. And this is something that goes beyond the patient — affecting spouses, parents, children, siblings. It can change relationships, at home … at work … at school. It changes the patient’s abilities, mood, even productivity. RA and JRA patients live with pain, lack of mobility, fatigue, the side-effects of medications, trouble sleeping, etc. Some JRA patients have even struggled with Anorexia and growth failure. And children with any chronic illness are often the targets of bullying. This is what becomes the new normal. It is a lot to take in … accept … and manage. Still, it can be done. It’s important to remember that.

Living with RA and JRA is a blend of positives and negatives. For example, healthier eating habits are a positive that everyone can benefit from. Gentle, low-impact exercises are another positive. Patients can feel weather, i.e. rain, even before it arrives. As the barometric pressure drops, their joints swell. They become more sensitive to cold, air conditioning, etc. A study done at Tufts University, back in 2007, revealed that just a drop of 10 degrees increased the pain in rheumatic patients. Negative effects of the disease.

Concessions must be made for a patient to live happier and comfortably, i.e. with the thermostat, activities, etc. That too can be a positive thing. Personally, my cycling was traded-in for walking. There are handy tools, cooking utensils, even video gaming systems that are better suited for RA and JRA patients. All fun, helpful and positive. All can be used (and will be) by other family members. No, you don’t have to give up everything. But, often times, you do have to change how you do them, i.e. 9 holes of golf on a Par 3 instead of 18 on a Par 5. Once upon a time, I used to shop in a mall like I was the Energizer Bunny … going … and going … and going. Now, I limit my excursions to 2 hours. It helps me to manage the fatigue that will follow. If you have RA or JRA, it will help you too. Learn to use the internet, wisely — find locations that sell the products you are looking for, before you leave home. Enjoy activities, even though you must limit them. If you push your body, the RA will push back even harder. It isn’t worth a setback.

Unfortunately, Depression can be a problem for some patients. When the frustration of a flare, pain, limitations, etc. complicate life … it can be difficult to have patience and remain optimistic. Yet, that’s exactly what it takes. Much about living with Rheumatoid Arthritis is a mental game. RA or JRA has entered your life. But you can control your lifestyle. You can control the disease through medications, changes to your diet, activities, etc. It doesn’t have to control you. When you embrace optimism, you become a better player … smarter … happier … and definitely moving on with your life!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648

https://www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis-hereditary#family-ties

https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/understanding-juvenile-rheumatoid-arthritis-treatment#1

https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/chemotherapy-drugs#1

http://www.health.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/living-with-rheumatoid-arthritis-0

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tools-resources/weather/

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2013/737356/

* Photo by Bogdan Dada on Unsplash