Myth: All arthritis is the same.
Fact: Rheumatoid arthritis is very different from osteoarthritis, the most common form of the disease. Most people will develop some form of arthritis in their lifetime because of the wear and tear associated with daily life, but only 1% of adult Americans will develop rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis affects your joints, while RA affects your heart, lungs, joints, eyes, and blood vessels.
Myth: RA is for the elderly.
Fact: RA starts in middle age, with the average age to be diagnosed in the early fifties. One-third of people are diagnosed with RA after 60, but people in their teens, twenties, and even children can develop RA. Women are three times more likely to be diagnosed than men, and they are between the ages of 30 and 60.
Myth: RA runs in families.
Fact: The genes for RA are passed down in families, but that doesn't mean you are going to get the condition. It appears that having the genes and events in your life trigger the genes to become active. Some scientists believe that certain viruses cause RA, but there is no definitive research to back up this claim.
Myth: You caused RA.
Fact: There is nothing you did to cause RA and nothing you could have done to stop it. RA is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your joints.
Myth: If you look fine, you mustn't be in any pain.
Fact: The fatigue from RA can be worse than the pain from RA. The fatigue isn't just being tired- it's your whole body feeling sore and exhausted.
Myth: Exercising is a bad idea.
Fact: A way of relieving the symptoms of RA is to exercise regularly, which will ease pain and stiffness, improve motion and flexibility, and boost your energy level. When your joints are actively swollen, you should rest, but when they are not, exercise freely.
Myth: You can't avoid disability.
Fact: Doctors now know that treating RA early and aggressively is the best way to prevent disability. There are also new medications called biologic agents which change the way your immune system functions.
Myth: There's not much you can do about RA.
Fact: Learn as much as you can about RA and work with your doctors and their treatment plans. Eat a heart-healthy diet, don't smoke, exercise, and stay at a healthy weight. Having RA can be stressful, so have ways to deal with the anger, confusion, and emotional pain of this disease.