Is there a place to buy a brand new immune system? That half-joking question that brought a wave of responses -- and support -- from the WebMD Rheumatoid Arthritis Community. The person who asked it said that her recent RA diagnosis was the second time her immune system had betrayed her, and she is now sad, frustrated, and worried about side effects from her medication.
A 45-year-old mother of five could relate; she, too, was recently diagnosed. When does the fatigue go away? Are her children destined to go through this, too? And will she ever have the quality of life she had before?
Many seasoned members of the community said they'd be first in line to trade in their tired old immune systems, and they applauded the questioner for keeping her sense of humor. They offered some valuable thoughts and coping strategies for staying positive:
- Know that RA is manageable. It can go into remission.
- It may take time to find the right combination of medicines. Your rheumatologist will monitor your medication and make changes or adjustments. If your symptoms aren't getting better or get worse right away, contact your doctor immediately.
- Physical activity helps with fatigue, but never push yourself if you're in pain.
- The side effects of a prescription medicine can be different for different medications.
- Eat healthy, watch your weight, take your medicine, exercise, and know your limits.
- Keep your spirits up and try to think about the good things in your life, so you won't have to deal with depression on top of RA!
- Don't give in to your RA -- make the best of it. One woman said she hated to give up golf and tennis, but she is looking forward to taking up another old love, art.
Another woman, who was diagnosed with RA 35 years ago, recalled that her first treatment was 20 aspirin a day. Now, she said, if you find the right combination of drugs and the right rheumatologist, your chances of leading a normal life are much better.
As for the original question -- whether it's possible to get a new immune system -- Scott Zashin, MD, said the idea is not that far-fetched. Doctors and Northwestern Medical Center are now doing experimental stem cell transplants for treatment-resistant, immune-related diseases such as lupus. The idea, Zashin said, is that the "sick" immune system is wiped clean and replaced with a healthy new one.