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How to Talk to People About Your RA

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on October 08, 2020

Your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a lifelong condition that may affect your work, home, and social lives. Opening up to people close to you can teach them about your disease. Their acceptance and understanding in turn can help you better handle the challenges of everyday life.

What to Say

It’s normal if you feel uncomfortable about sharing information about your health, especially with those who aren’t your family or friends. But it can be very helpful to confide in people who otherwise may have no idea that you have RA.

You can share only as much as you’re comfortable with. Stick to the basics. Start off with simple details about rheumatoid arthritis. Be concrete and specific.

Explain RA. Tell them that it’s a long-term health condition that affects your joints and other parts of your body. You also may want to mention that it can happen because of your genes or is caused by cigarette smoke and other environmental factors.

Talk about your symptoms. Tell your friends and family how RA may limit what you can do. Describe your symptoms and how they may change, improve, or worsen. Help them understand how RA affects different parts of your body. Or that they may not see any outward signs of your disease. Let them know that you still may be dealing with pain, stiffness, and other issues that they may not see.

Share how you manage. Explain how medications and other treatments ease your symptoms. Or the surgery you’ve had or might need in the future. Talk about what you do and what you avoid to stay comfortable. Ask for their understanding, help, or both.

The more those around you know about your RA, the less you may feel the need to educate people over and over. Open conversations also may encourage questions from people who might feel pushy about asking.

Who to Tell

Everyone deals with their health differently. It’s up to you who and how many people you confide in.

But if your RA starts to affect not only you, but people around you, consider sharing your information. For example, it may be a good idea to loop in your boss and co-workers on the ways that RA may interfere with your job. Or you might let friends and loved ones know your reasons for turning down invitations when you don’t feel your best.

If you’re honest and open with those around you, it’ll make it easier for them to help you and to accommodate your condition.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Rheumatoid arthritis.”

Hospital for Special Surgery: “Managing Daily Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Strategies, Skills and Tools.”

National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society: “The Genetics of Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

Charles Roberts, MD.

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