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How to Talk to Your Family and Friends continued...

Discuss how things might change. You might not be able to do as much as you once did. The house may be messier. You might not be able to cook every night. Your disease might subside and then flare up. Make sure people close to you know what to expect, Frost says. Once they do, they can adapt.

If your family and friends don't realize what RA is like for you, they may have comments and complaints that frustrate you. This can be stressful. "The sooner you can start that open communication, the better," White says.

Get support from your doctor. If your spouse or another close family member has trouble grasping what you're going through, bring the person along to a doctor's visit. Urge them to ask the doctor questions.

How to Talk to Coworkers and Your Boss

Make sure you want to discuss it. Think carefully about how much you want to say. You don’t have to tell your boss or co-workers about your condition.

"If RA is not affecting your ability to work, there's really no reason to bring it up," White says. But if the disease is making it hard for you to do your job, it makes sense to talk about it.

Read up on legal issues. If you think you need help at work -- like extra breaks or a better-designed workspace -- know your rights before you talk to your employer. Contact the Job Accommodation Network, which can advise you. Talk it over with your doctor too, White says.

Have a clear sense of what you want. Don't go in with just a vague sense of that when you talk to your employer. What do you need? What will make you better at doing your job?

Talk to the right person. At larger companies, you might want to speak with someone in human resources. In smaller businesses, you may want to talk to your boss directly.

Whether you talk to your family, friends, or your boss, discussing RA can be hard. But people can be more understanding and helpful than you might expect.

You're also bound to feel a lot better after you talk about it. "I think that keeping your RA a secret can be more stressful than letting people know," McCabe says.

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