Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chronic Pain and You

So, I'm finally free from the hardcore arthritis pain that I was experiencing. After my last post, I ended up getting a hugely swollen upper lip while my boyfriend and I were shopping in Madison. Talk about a mood killer.

Sorry about the crappy quality. Taking pictures in a Red Robin with the camera phone is a little awkward.

Speaking of boyfriends... Could your chronic pain condition be affecting your relationships? That is, of course, a trick question. The majority of people do have a problem, at least from time to time, feeling supported or knowing how to handle pain together. Sara Nash, of The Single Gal's Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis, discusses the dangers of dating with RA.

There is also the question of the role of diet in chronic pain conditions. Want to know more? Just click here. I can tell you though that the only rule I follow is the one on aspartame, but that could just be because I'm allergic to it. I do try to stay away from a lot of additives and, when it's plausible, I do try to eat more organic foods.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another Day, More Rash

Here are some more pictures of rash:

This is my right knee as of this morning. You can see now the pimply nature I was trying to discuss yesterday.

This is just above my left knee. The rash that was on my knee has spread upwards again. It seems as though this spot is gaining in size as the morning goes on.

Oddly enough, rash does tend to show up in such odd places as lips and in the mouth. Here you can see my lower lip is swollen to almost twice its normal size and is dark red compared to the upper lip. Last night, the rash began on the underside of my chin and on the backside of my left hip.

I do have another large spot on my left thumb joint, but my cell phone fails to see the importance of uploading the picture. As long as I have the rash this bad and I get them up, expect to see more pictures.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Relapse

So remember how I was talking about my arthritis not really being that bad and how much it surprised me? Um yeah, I forgot to knock on wood.

The rash I had last night and this morning was the same intensity as the rash that I experienced as a small child. It's hard to think that I was able to somehow handle the extreme itching that this rash brings along with it. In the wee small hours of the morning, it occurred to me that there aren't a whole hell of a lot of pictures that capture this terrible rash. The pictures aren't the best quality since I was super tired, but here you go:

This is my left elbow around eleven PM last night. You can see here the raised nature of this rash. Once it is scratched, it tends to spread. Earlier in the night, there were three small spots similar in nature and, unfortunately, I touched, rubbed, and scratched them. This is the resulting spread.

This is the right elbow around 6 this morning. Last night, it had no sign of rash on it at all. You can see how the whole arm seems to be enveloped by the rash.

This is a close-up of the left elbow this morning. This picture helps to show that the rash tends to center on the joints.

I can't remember which knee this is (left I think?), but I took this picture this morning. My bathroom isn't very light, so you'll have to forgive me. My knee is very swollen and covered in rash, most of it hiding beneath the skin. The rash here, which you can't really see thanks to the lighting, is bumpy similar to a pimple or boil. Combined with the itching, an untrained eye may think it is a bug bite or boil and try to pick at it - very bad idea.

This is also from this morning. The rash literally covered my whole arm. What you see here is the fading away of the rash (this time on my left wrist) in the mornings. One of the most frustrating things when we were trying to diagnose what was wrong with me was that the rash would occur during the night but disappear by the time we were finally able to see a doctor.

Again, this is the rash dissipating (right wrist). You can see the rash still present along the bottom edges of the picture and right around my vein towards the middle. Also you can see my gross sink. Don't worry, it's rust.

Again, this is the most extreme case of the rash I have had since I was very young. The rash is VERY hot to the touch and generally brings with it a feverish feeling. It is very difficult to resist the urge to scratch this rash, especially in one's sleep. The main reason the rash spread this time was because of the lack of self-control during sleep, and this is very common unfortunately. I spent a long time trying to stay awake last night despite the fact that I had to work at 8am this morning. This is complicated by the fact that I have a nasty cold right now too and had some fun coughing fits throughout the night. As such, I got a very restless three or four hours of sleep.

I hope that this helps to show some of you who may not understand exactly what happens with systemic JRA rash get a better grip on what is happening here. One of the most frustrating things with this rash is that nothing helps it feel better. No cold water, no calamine lotion (this peels and ends up begging to be picked at), and unfortunately no ingested Benadryl. I used a Cortaid spray this morning, but that only seemed to help due to the fact that the rash was already dissipating. While it is very hard to remember and follow, the best thing you can do is not scratch it. You've seen now what happens when you do, and I can tell you it isn't pretty.

In slightly related news, I fell down the stairs this week at my mom's house. My knee gave out mid-step and there just wasn't a way to recover. Honestly, that was a lot more fun than the rash and, though it is probably going to start hurting exponentially more in the coming days, I would rather fall down the stairs again than have the rash and that's saying a lot.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Calling Attention to the Problem

Here are some little known facts about Still's Disease:

When one thinks of diseases a child can acquire, he or she will generally think of seasonal and non-chronic illnesses, like a cold or the flu. It is startling to note, however, that arthritis is the sixth most common childhood disease, behind other debilitating diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy.

Arthritis is also the number one offender of acquired disability in children.

Still's Disease accounts for 10-20% of all JRA cases, affecting between 25-50,000 children in the United States alone.

Out of all children with SD, all have high temperature fevers as well as joint inflammation, muscle pain, and persistent chronic arthritis; 95% have the pink-colored rash; 85% have swelling in their lymph glands or enlargement of the spleen or liver as well as a marked increase in white blood cell count; 60% have inflammation around the lungs or heart; 40% have severe anemia; and 20% have abdominal pain.

The site used for the last two facts also says that the salmon-colored rash doesn't itch. This is a lie. I personally have spent many sleepless nights scratching at various body parts due to said rash. The insatiable itching cannot be resolved through anti-itch lotions or anti-histamines. Actually scratching the rash causes it to raise above the natural skin level as well as causing the itch to get worse.

Said site also discusses the temporary nature of this disease. This is also wrong (at least regarding systemic arthritis). I got sick in November of my kindergarten year and have never recovered. A small percentage of children do grow out of the disease. However, the majority of children face a lifetime of arthritis-related problems.

The cause of Still's Disease isn't yet known. Some think it grows from an untreated strep throat, others from a microbe. Whatever the cause, it seems to be a genetic disease. Or, at the very least, the susceptibility to the disease is.

Arthritis is generally seen as a disease which affects the elderly. With the higher prevalence of RA in middle-aged people, arthritis is getting more attention than it has in the past. However, there is still the idea that arthritis is not a disease that affects children. Hopefully in the future, this will change and there will be more attention drawn to the plight of children with this painfully chronic and debilitating disease.