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How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Life

Tips on working and living with RA.
(continued)

Raising Children While Coping With RA

Because rheumatoid arthritis is progressive, could RA prevent you from being the mom you want to be?

Rheumatologists today are optimistic. Thanks to new medicines for rheumatoid arthritis, "treatment for RA today is really a tale of two cities," says Zashin. In the past, RA often led to joint deformity and disability. No longer. In the last decade, most women who get early, aggressive care can avoid major disability.

That's not to say raising kids while living with RA is a cakewalk. Pain, fatigue and stiffness are still daily realities for many, making motherhood more challenging.

The demands of child rearing tend to push people with rheumatoid arthritis further than they should allow, Cowan tells WebMD.

"With babies, mothers don't really have a choice, but as children grow, you have to learn to communicate with all those around you about your limitations," she says, adding, "You have the right to do less than is humanly possible."

Zashin agrees. "Pace yourself, and don't feel like you need to do everything," he advises. "Maybe there's something you can give up to get a little more time in your day."

Rheumatoid arthritis experts offer a few places to start:

  • Organize carpools to sports practices.
  • Schedule naps and rest time while kids are at school.
  • Accept housework that's less than TV-perfect.
  • Be sure to get plenty of sleep at night.

Rheumatoid Arthritis on the Job

Living with rheumatoid arthritis means coping with morning stiffness and pain, making it harder to rush to work. In addition, RA's flares occur unpredictably, and demand some rest during the day. Expecting consistent high performance in a rigid work schedule is unrealistic for those with RA, experts say.

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis naturally gravitate toward more RA-friendly jobs, says Iversen. "One of my patients was a nurse, but lifting patients and being on her feet all day became impossible. She's now a social worker helping people with RA and disabilities. It's the perfect job for her."

It's possible to seek a less demanding work schedule without revealing you have rheumatoid arthritis, says Iversen. "People switch to part-time or ask to work from home for all sorts of reasons, including child-care issues," she points out. "Sometimes you just have to ask."

Certain modifications -- a different keyboard or computer screen, or modified desk or chair -- are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement, depending on the size of the company.

Should you tell your employer that you have rheumatoid arthritis? It's a complicated decision. The Americans With Disabilities Act protects people with limitations from RA. However, some employees with RA fear being treated differently after asking for accommodation at work.

"I tell them, go with your gut," Iversen says. "You'll know if it's the right time to tell your employer." When it's time to make changes to your work environment, ask your doctor to refer a physical therapist to perform a workplace ergonomic evaluation. Or consider contacting your state disability office for suggestions. 

Next Article:

How does RA affect your life?