This post about multiple diagnoses in no way constitutes medical advice. Please refer to my Dislaimer for further information and please continue to consult a medical professional for your medical conditions.
Not just Rheumas
This week saw a shift in temperature where I live. There’s been a bit more sunshine which has taken the cold chill out of the air. That’s a big deal for me because on top of rheumatoid arthritis, I also have Raynaud’s. My dual diagnosis got me thinking about the multiple diagnoses that many of those living with rheumatoid arthritis deal with. So in this article, I’m going to go through the multiple diagnoses meaning and what other illnesses are commonly associated with RA.
What is the multiple diagnoses word?
Multiple diagnosis is called comorbidity or another word for multiple diagnoses.
A plural diagnosis is not uncommon with rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes, an overactive immune system can result in multiple autoimmune disorders. In saying that, there are many RA patients living with just RA and no other medical conditions. Sometimes, a differential diagnosis can appear due to medications associated with treating rheumatoid arthritis. For a list of all RA medications and their common side effects, you can get a free ‘Guide to rheumatoid arthritis medication’ booklet when you subscribe to The Rheuma Mill.
Other medical conditions that you can have with rheumatoid arthritis are:
Fibromyalgia is a neurologic condition that causes pain and tenderness all over the body.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time.
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that targets the sacroiliac joints. These joints connect the base of the spine (sacrum) to your pelvis. AS can also affect the hips, shoulders, eyes, skin, bowel and lungs.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect many different parts of the body. There are multiple types of lupus and symptoms can be similar to RA including pain, stiffness or swelling in joints and fatigue. However, lupus also affects the skin and internal organs.
- Carpel tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve when it passes through the wrist. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling or numbness in your fingers or the palm of your hand that feels like pins and needles and nerve pain in your wrist or hand, which can spread up your arm or down to your fingers.
- Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which scaly red and white patches develop on the skin. Some people with psoriasis can also develop psoriatic arthritis, manifested by painful, stiff and swollen joints.
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjögren’s syndrome is an inflammatory disease that primarily affects the tear and saliva glands. Those with this condition experience eye irritation, dry mouth or difficulty eating dry foods and swelling of the glands around the face and neck.
- Raynaud’s Phenomenon
In Raynaud’s phenomenon, smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin constrict excessively in response to cold, limiting blood supply to the affected area. This results in changes of color in the skin and stiffness.
Since my diagnosed with Raynaud’s, I have noticed that I feel a lot colder than I used to. When everyone around me is feeling warm or ‘normal’, I feel excessively cold. Aside from late spring and summer, I always ensure I have my full fingered compression gloves or hand-warmers nearby and predominately walk around in sherpa fleece-lined clothing.
Just like rheumatoid arthritis, unless you have Raynaud’s, you don’t really understand what it’s like. The photo above might provide a good illustration. This is a photo I took of my actual hands when Raynaud’s hit. It happens when I feel the cold, and it doesn’t have to be excessively cold and I don’t have to be exposed to the cold for very long for it to happen. When it does happen, it pretty much renders my hands useless. My fingers go all stiff and I can’t move it. I can’t say that the experience is painful but it’s certainly uncomfortable. It doesn’t just affect my hands but my toes as well. To reverse the effects, I have to be in a warm environment for at least 30 minutes.
Not always the physical
Comorbidity is not exclusive to physical medical conditions. Multiple diagnoses can also include mental health related issues. You can read more about the effects of chronic pain on mental health here. Many of those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis can also have an existing mental illness. In addition, those living with chronic pain can also struggle with substance abuse. It is important to note that a psychiatric disorder is not a precursor for rheumatoid arthritis and vice versa.
The take away
Rheumatoid arthritis affects everyone in different ways. Sometimes, it can lead to a diagnosis of another condition. More often than not, it can affect our mental health or exacerbate existing conditions. Please speak to your doctor or rheumatologist if you suspect that any of your symptoms go beyond rheumatoid arthritis. Any other condition may require a different type of care and treatment plan and needs to be addressed separately to your current condition.
For those that require support to deal with the affects of rheumatoid arthritis or any comorbidities, you can reach out in our support group. Support groups are great therapy and a fantastic source of information any time you need.
If you live with multiple diagnoses, please share it on The Rheuma Mill in the comments below! Any tips on how you cope or anything that you have found helpful, please share it with our community.