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Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis In My Twenties

Everyone perceives Rheumatoid Arthritis as an 'old person' problem. Well, I'm in my twenties, and live with the chronic, incurable condition, every single day.

By Rebecca SmithPublished about a month ago 4 min read
Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis In My Twenties
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

For the past few years, I'd been noticing more and more that I was struggling to do every day tasks. I was dropping things, my thumbs were locked and I couldn't unlock them unless I physically stretched them out. My ankles were going from underneath me when I was walking and my knee kept seizing up. Friends and family noticed, but they just put it down to me being lazy, or blaming it on my depression, when actually, it was neither. I finally managed to get a doctors appointment, and after several tests, being mis-diagnosed twice, and an incredibly rude physio-therapist... I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I am 27 years old.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a life-long condition, for which there is no cure. There are injections and pain killers that can help symptoms, but they're not that great. It's something that I will have to live with forever. A big problem with that, is that I'm pretty young. People don't percieve Rheumatoid Arthritis as being a real thing in younger people. Whilst it is unusual, it isn't impossible. I've not even had this diagnosis long, and I've already been accused of lying about it... on three seperate occasions. Why would anyone lie about that? If anything, I'm actually embarrassed about it, so I keep it to myself where possible.

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) can be challenging for individuals of any age, but facing this chronic autoimmune disease in my twenties, presents unique obstacles. RA is a chronic autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the joints, causing pain, inflammation, and stiffness. This condition can lead to significant disability and decreased quality of life for those affected by it. And that prospect, does actually scare me. I have three close family members on my dad’s side who suffer with RA, and on my mum’s side, my nan had MS and my mum had a really rare disease that often affected mobility, joints and the raspatory system.

Historically, RA has been recognised since ancient times, with descriptions of similar symptoms found in writings dating back to the 5th century BC. However, it was not until the 19th century that the term "Rheumatoid Arthritis" was coined by Sir Alfred Baring Garrod, an English physician who made significant contributions to the understanding of this condition. In 1800, the term ‘rheumatics’ was introduced to describe a group of diseases characterised by joint pain and stiffness, laying the groundwork for the eventual classification of RA as a separate entity. Since then, research and advancements in medical knowledge have greatly improved our understanding of Rheumatoid Arthritis and its underlying mechanisms.

More recently, Dr. Edward Rudolf, a British physician, made significant contributions to the understanding of this disease in the early 20th century. He proposed the concept of "rheumatoid factor," which is now a key marker used in the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Additionally, Dr. Joan Bathon, a rheumatologist and researcher, has made significant contributions to the field through her work on early intervention strategies and personalised treatment approaches for young adults with RA. Her research has helped improve outcomes and quality of life for individuals living with this condition. Furthermore, Dr. Paul Klemperer, a German pathologist, identified the characteristic rheumatoid nodules associated with this condition, further advancing our knowledge of its pathophysiology.

Influential individuals who have contributed to the field of Rheumatoid Arthritis research include Dr. Vivian Bykerk, a rheumatologist known for her work in clinical trials and personalised medicine approaches for treating this condition. Dr. Bykerk's research has led to significant advancements in understanding the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to Rheumatoid Arthritis, as well as the development of new targeted therapies for managing this disease.

The impact of RA is pretty severe, as it can really limit mobility and cause chronic pain. This leads to difficulties in performing daily activities such as walking, dressing, and even holding objects. I can’t even really scroll through TikTok for very long, because holding my phone absolutely kills my thumb. The pain and stiffness associated with RA can also impact mental health, leading to feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. Even maintaining relationships is hard with RA, as I often can’t go out with friends and do what they do, because on a bad day, I struggle to even walk very far.

It's hard not to focus on all the negatives, however, the more I’ve researched RA and how to live with it, a few positives have appeared. Advances in medical research and technology offer new opportunities for early diagnosis, personalised treatment plans, and innovative interventions to manage RA effectively. Also, increased awareness and early detection of Rheumatoid Arthritis have improved overall prognosis and quality of life for those affected by this condition.

Potential developments in RA are heavily reliant upon research, and I just worry that there’s a lack of time and money available to look into something like RA, when there are more severe issues out there. Also, treatments come at a high cost, that not everyone can afford. I live in the UK so I have the NHS, but they are struggling and trying to become private in certain areas. My fear is that this will get worse and I won’t be able to lead a normal life. It’s already had a major effect on my work life, mental health and personal relationships. If it gets much worse, I worry that I will be on my own, with no job and no way to make money and live a normal enough life.

Overall, I am trying to remain hopeful that I will soon be able to have treatment and medication will be sorted, to help me lead a happy and full life. But RA is chronic and hard to live with. It’s so disheartening having this in my twenties – especially when everyone looks upon RA as an old person’s disease. I get a lot of ridicule and a lot of people not believe me. It would be nice to raise awareness of this and educate people further. Here’s hoping that something changes soon.


About the Creator

Rebecca Smith


Just be f*cking nice 🙌

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