My mother had Rheumatoid Arthritis, at a time (late 1970s through her early death in 1984), when treatments were limited:
Aspirin and other NSAIDs
Pain meds, often quite addictive
That was pretty much it for most RA patients. And, even today, the first two treatments are still used.
Crippling and twisted joints were common. Many individuals with RA were in wheelchairs at an early age. My mother’s hands looked like this:
It’s as painful as it looks. For the last 10 years of her life, most of her daily activities - eating, drinking, toileting, moving from bed to chair and back, bathing - had to be accomplished with the assistance of another person. My father took on the majority of her care, even becoming a pretty fair cook.
Eventually, even with household helpers, my Dad had to throw in the towel, and move in with their youngest daughter (I did not live in town at that time). It was a busy household, with 3 generations crowded into one 4 bedroom, 1 bathroom house (there was a basement toilet, as well).
My mother kind of enjoyed the commotion - she was a people person, and liked to interact with others. My Dad was less sociable - a LOT less sociable, and sometimes found the noise a bit much.
They all managed, for about 1/2 dozen years, to handle my mother’s needs and their own busy lives. Until the day she had a mini-stroke.
We were notified, and told she wasn’t going to the hospital, as her doctor - who diagnosed this by phone - said it wasn’t necessary. I’ve never forgiven him for that, as it likely led to another stroke, the next day, that hospitalized her, and caused her death only a few days later.
I’ve since come to think of the stroke as a mixed blessing - she was free of the pain that had become increasingly unmanageable, but she could have survived the stroke, had she been seen at the time of the first episode.
Treatment of RA has come a long way since then. The latest breakthrough is the Biologic-type drugs (Humira and all the rest). They have their side effects, and are not suitable for everyone, but use of them has meant that many RA patients can lead a near-normal life.
When I was first diagnosed, I was very apprehensive. The doctor took my family history, and assured me that the available meds were far more extensive than those of my mother’s time. With careful monitoring and oversight, I might experience little of the crippling effects during my remaining life.
I had been using Mobic/Meloxicam, since the OTC pain relievers weren’t helping. It had been enormously helpful in reducing the stiffness and pain. But, I was finding it less helpful as time went on.
The Rheumatologist (and, it’s really important to get access to a good one) added in Plaquenil, taken twice a day. You might know it under its generic name of HCQ - hydroxychloroquine (yeah, the med that some are suggesting may prevent COVID illness, or, at least, reduce its severity).
Don’t know about that. But, even though I had a bad respiratory illness at the start of the COVID thing (no test at the time), I recovered, although I was greatly fatigued for several months. So, maybe there is something to the idea.
But, for me, HCQ has been a game-changer. I’ve been able to move more smoothly, and have greatly reduced the swelling around my joints. It’s not perfect - I have to see an opthalmologist twice a year to make sure that the med is not causing eye problems. So far, so good.
I anticipate further posts on this topic, roughly twice a month, for now.