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You may be the one who has rheumatoid arthritis, but it's going to touch a lot of other people in your life -- your partner, your kids, your close friends, and your coworkers.

They’ll want to know how to support you. But there’s a problem. "Most people don't have a clue what RA is," says Patience White, MD, a rheumatologist and vice president for public health at the Arthritis Foundation.

So what can you do to get people to understand that RA is more than an achy joint -- and tell them how to give you the kind of help you need? Use these tips.

How to Talk to Your Family and Friends

Do some research. Before you start talking to people, read up on rheumatoid arthritis. Learn as much as you can, says Lenore Frost, PhD, clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. Your family and friends will have questions. Having answers will help them understand RA better.

Explain what the disease is like. Giving people the basics on your condition is just the first part. More important, tell them what it's like for you. You may look the same as always, so people may have no idea what you're going through. Be specific. Describe what morning stiffness feels like. Talk about daily fatigue. Really try to get across how it affects you -- what it feels like when you do certain tasks or what things are really hard to do.

Ask for help and be specific. "Most people are willing to help," says Jane McCabe, an occupational therapist in Laguna Hills, CA. "But they need guidance from you to know what they can do." If someone offers help, take her up on it. Then ask for what you need. Someone to shop for groceries? A few hours of child care a week?

Talk to your kids. If you have children, not talking to them about your RA doesn't really work. They're going to notice. So tell them that you may be tired and sore, but that you're still there for them. Make sure they know that you're getting good treatment.

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