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Young Adults Living With RA

When rheumatoid arthritis strikes decades earlier than usual.

Family Matters continued...

With careful planning and monitoring, most patients can have successful pregnancies. According to Manno, half of patients experience a remission of symptoms during pregnancy, while the other half go into a flare.

Some patients who are already parents struggle to handle the responsibility. Kayla Rae, a 29-year-old single mother from Louisiana who was diagnosed in 2010, says the most difficult part is the guilt that she lives with. “I know my daughter’s life would be different if I felt better,” she says. “RA tends to influence every decision I make. Something as simple as grocery shopping may be all that I can do in one day.”

Handling Emotions

Feelings such as denial and frustration are common among RA patients. Miceli struggled with her emotions when she was first diagnosed. “I felt so angry,” she says. “I kept wondering why did this happen to me now, at this stage of my life. This isn’t fair, what did I do to deserve this?”

RA has made it harder for Miceli to enjoy old hobbies like tap dancing and kayaking with her husband, and she will likely be on prescription drugs to treat her RA for the rest of her life.

But she tries not to let the disease stop her from doing the things she enjoys most. “On good days, when I am teaching and in my element, sometimes I even forget I have RA. But still, there is no escaping the fact that life is going to be a constant struggle from here on.”

It's important that RA patients who are struggling with their emotions understand that they are not alone. “We remind patients that the feelings they are having are normal and that there are other patients out there who are going through the same thing,” Manno says. “It is very important that patients have a strong support network.”

Some patients turn to their family members and friends, while others find comfort in support groups. Manno suggests contacting the Arthritis Foundation to find a group in your area. Individual counseling is also an option for patients who are depressed or anxious.

It is also important to be educated about the disease and share your knowledge with family and friends. “The more patients know, the better they can manage,” says Eric Matteson, MD, MPH, chair of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic. “It helps to take the fear out of the disease when you understand it better, and when you know that there is a lot which can be done for it.”

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Reviewed on July 29, 2011

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