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If you or someone you know has rheumatoid arthritis (Rheumatoid Arthritis), you’ll want to watch this video. In it, Sarah Allen, who is a former patient of mine, shares how she put rheumatoid arthritis into remission, and it’s a remarkable success story.
Rheumatoid arthritis was a passion of mine while I was still in active practice. I treated over 3,000 patients with this disease. I estimate 80 to 85 percent of them experienced significant recovery, if not remission, like Sarah did.
I ran into Sarah after giving a presentation recently in Orlando, where she happened to be in attendance. After talking to her, I decided we needed to share her important story as it would provide hope for so many who struggle with this disease.
She first came to see me in August of 2003. Even though she was only 28 years old at the time, she’d been experiencing symptoms of RA for about three or four years.
“I thought I was very healthy,’ she says. ‘I was young. I was a competitive triathlete. I believed I had a pretty good diet. So, I didn’t really understand why I was experiencing so much pain in my fingers and in my feet.
I had migrating pain, and a lot of tendonitis issues all throughout my body. It took the Western doctors a long time to diagnose me. It took about three years going to different doctors before they knew what was wrong.
It didn’t show in my blood; I didn’t have the RA factor, and my C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were normal. But it showed up on an X-ray.’”
Hallmark Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis
One of the hallmark symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is pain in your hands and/or feet. It tends to affect the proximal joints more so than the distal ones, i.e. the joints closest to your palm, for example, opposed to the joints further out in the fingers.
Recently, while walking through a sporting goods store, I was intrigued by all of the camouflaged garments. I listened as my daughter’s boyfriend explained about the importance of hiding from the deer.
“In order to be in position for a kill,” he said, “you have to hide in plain sight.” He told us about how hunters used camouflaged clothing and blinds to be near the deer without exposing themselves. There was an art to hunting and it took great skill to get close to a wild animal, especially one with a keen sense of smell. I continued listening as he talked, and that’s what got me to thinking about the art of camouflage.
Since having both breasts removed, I was in the minority of the post-breast cancer world. Most of the women I talked to had chosen to go the route of reconstruction. They were young and wanted to keep their breasts. Instead of just having their breasts lopped off and being forever flat, they went through the complicated process of reconstruction. After having breasts removed, tissue expanders were inserted for those choosing to have silicone or saline implants. For those choosing to use their own body fat to make new breasts, the choice between DIEP flap or TRAM flap had to be made. Surgeries were complicated and painful, but each woman chose what worked best for her. My choice was pretty cut and dry. I wanted them taken off and wanted to be done with cancer forever. I wanted a once-and-done kind of surgery.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. MS affects approximately 3.0 million people globally, with about 300,000 cases in the United States. Twice as many women as men have MS. The average ages for onset of MS is 20-40 years. In MS, cells in the immune system attack and destroy myelin, the fatty tissue surrounding nerve cells (http://www.phylomed.com/MS.html). Scar tissue replaces the myelin, interfering with the transmission of nerve signals and leading to numbness, fatigue, spasticity, loss of muscle control, and various other debilitating symptoms. There are four broad theories concerning the etiology of MS. The immune system, environment, viral infections, and genetics are possible factors attributed to the cause of MS.
Spasticity refers to an increase in muscle tone that causes muscle stiffness or spasms (Sibley, 105). There are two types of spasticity prevalent in people with MS: phasic spasms and a sustained increase in muscle tone. Phasic spasms sub-categorize into two types of spasticity: flexor and extensor. In flexor spasticity, the hips and knees of the person bend forward, due to tightening of the hamstrings. In extensor spasticity, the legs of the patient cross over at the ankles or lock together, with the hips and knees remaining rigid (http://www.nmss.org/msinfo/cmsi/spasticity.html). Spasms also occur less frequently in the arms, backs, and necks of people with MS. Both types of spasticity debilitate patients and lead to difficulties in performing daily tasks. Phasic spasms disrupt the balance of the patient and can cause severe pain.
It’s time to get flu shots for your family before your house is full of fevers and dripping noses.
1. The flu vaccine is essential for children.
The flu virus is common and unpredictable, and it can cause serious complications and death, even in healthy children. Immunization each year is the best way to protect children.
Each year, on average, 5% to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from complications. At least 77 children died from the flu in the 2015-2016 season, although the actual number is probably much higher since many flu deaths aren’t reported and are caused by secondary flu complications such as pneumonia. If you choose not to vaccinate your child, you not only endanger your own child but also others.
Although influenza can be treated with antiviral medications, these drugs are less effective if not started early, can be expensive, and may have bothersome side effects.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends annual influenza immunization for all people ages 6 months and older, including children and adolescents. In addition, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children with high risk conditions and all children under the age of 5 especially should be vaccinated.
Young children, people with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, weakened immune systems, and pregnant women are at high risk for complications of influenza, such aspneumonia.
About half of all Americans get vaccinated against the flu each year, including 50% of pregnant women. This number needs to get better. Ask your child’s school, child care center, or sports coach, “How are we promoting the flu vaccine for these children?”
SOUTH OGDEN — Not even six surgeries, a mysterious brain infection and a promise that she’s about to look like a creature from another planet can get Christine Jacobson down.
The 54-year-old believes her faith is sufficient to handle anything, including currently going about without part of her skull and serving others while toting a medical IV.
A member of the Holy Family Catholic Church, Jacobson points to her life experiences so far as examples of her strength.
Moments after she learned she had an infection below her skull four years ago, she was rushed into emergency brain surgery.
“My name is Christine Jacobson,” she recalls saying to medical personnel preparing to cut open her head. “I am of sound mind and body. If I die, my last dying wish is for you to take all my organs and use them.”
Faith in a God, believing he would use her for good, is what gave Jacobson the courage to face that moment, she said.
When she woke up from surgery, realizing she was still alive, Jacobson said she determined right then and there to boost her efforts to live the best life possible. Many of those efforts led to her being named as the Athena Award recipient last year by the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce.
The award is reserved for an inspirational woman member of the chamber.
Once fun-loving, outgoing, and energetic, Ms. R says she began feeling unusually anxious 3 years ago. A psychiatrist diagnosed bipolar disorder type II based on her racing thoughts, irritability, low energy, and history of mood swings. Over 2 years, the psychiatrist tried combining valproic acid with bupropion, citalopram, or extended-release venlafaxine, then tried lithium monotherapy. Nothing worked.
Frustrated, Ms. R left the psychiatrist and consulted her primary care physician, who prescribed gabapentin, 200 mg each morning and 300 mg at night; fluoxetine, 50 mg/d; and quetiapine, 12.5 mg/d. Ms. R noticed no improvement and stopped the medications after 6 weeks. The physician urged her to see another psychiatrist, and she presented to us 2 weeks after stopping the medications.
Ms. R also has been feeling depressed and irritable the past 4 months and has trouble falling and staying asleep at night. She sleeps 4 to 5 hours nightly, constantly feels tired, cannot concentrate, and overeats to try to alleviate her stress. She has gained 6 pounds over 2 to 3 months and weighs 160 lb; her body mass index of 26 indicates she is overweight.
She says her worries overwhelm her and cause heart palpitations and muscle tension in her neck and shoulders. She admits to feeling “worthless,” but denies suicidal thoughts.
Ms. R describes her husband and two teenage daughters as “very supportive,” but admits that her fatigue and irritability have strained these relationships; she says she snaps at them for minor things, such as coming to dinner 1 minute late. She misses her job, which she recently quit because of her decreasing ability to function.
A year ago Canterbury man Royce Brewer could barely put one foot in front of the other.
Now the Rangiora resident is working as a landscaper and has just finished laying a cobblestone path.
Brewer has suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS) for about 20 years, but his life changed after he travelled to Russia in February for a procedure deemed “experimental” and not supported or provided for MS sufferers in New Zealand.
“Just little things in life that you take for granted have vastly improved,” his wife Gabby Brewer said.
“And they improve every month,” Royce Brewer added. “Something gets better. At the moment I’m really tight in all my muscles, so I’m going to see a friend who’s stretching me, trying to release everything.”
* Multiple sclerosis patient to receive ‘experimental’ treatment in Russia
* Friends rallying to help Upper Hutt woman reach Mexico for stem cell treatment
* Marlborough woman’s search for cure
* Plea to help fund stem-cell treatment for Andrea Campbell
* Hunt after cure for MS disease
On Tuesday Royce Brewer received test results indicating his MS was in remission. His lesions have also begun to shrink – a rare occurrence.
A hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is a procedure where a person’s stem cells are removed, purified and concentrated.
Chemotherapy then completely wipes the patient’s immune system and the stem cells are returned.
The Brewers reckon if Royce had not undergone HSCT, he “would’ve been in a wheelchair by now, or [using] a walking frame”.
“The lesions … were spreading down my spine,” Royce Brewer said. “That was the next phase, was a wheelchair.”
HSCT is an option in New Zealand for the treatment of some cancers, but is, at this stage, considered too risky for MS.
Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Andrew Simpson said “a strong body of clinical evidence supported by New Zealand clinicians would be required” before HSCT would be considered for Kiwi MS sufferers.
Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand vice president Neil Woodhams said the society advised caution for those looking into HSCT before committing to travelling overseas.
Various pharmaceutical medicines are instead the option for treating the autoimmune disease in New Zealand.
“Some people with MS are very badly affected and it seems as though [HSCT] offers less benefit for them than people who are not so badly [affected],” Woodhams said.
“Our advice to people who are contemplating it is to make sure you have very good clinical advice before you go ahead with it, because it is a procedure that has significant risks.”
Australian neurologist Dr Colin Andrews supports HSCT and practiced it in Canberra for about six years.
He said the mortality rate for HSCT had dropped to 0.3 per cent, from 1.3 per cent during the previous decade and 3 per cent before that.
Andrews said two people in Australia each week were travelling to countries like Russia and Israel each week to have the treatment as it required stricter criteria at home.
New Zealand and Australia were “just not up to date,” he said.
The Brewers raised more than $80,000 to send Royce Brewer to Russia for a month for the therapy. Successful treatment meant no more MS medication and fewer trips to his doctor.
When he arrived home, “pumped” with steroids and painkillers for the plane ride, he was near bedridden, but quickly made progress.
“It was about a month in when all of a sudden I realised I wasn’t feeding [Royce] Panadol four times every hours for his headaches, because they just had gone.
“[That] was sort of the first sign that, we were hoping, this treatment had worked.”
“I would love to see the New Zealand medical community actually getting in behind this, looking into it and understanding it,” Gabby said.
Newly diagnosed with RA? A Cleveland Clinic rheumatologist explains some basics for you.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you probably have a lot of questions about the condition and what it may mean for your future health and quality of life.
This inflammatory autoimmune disease affects many people: 1.5 million U.S. adults (or 1 percent of the adult population), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The severity of RA varies from person to person and can be mild, moderate, or severe.
When you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mistakenly attacks the linings of your joints (called synovium), causing them to become inflamed and painful.
RA can begin at any age — most commonly in the twenties and thirties — and typically causes joint pain, fatigue, and prolonged stiffness after rest, says the CDC.
As with any condition, a number of important questions arise among the newly diagnosed, ranging from the nature of RA itself to treatment options.
Elaine Husni, MD, MPH, a rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and director of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Treatment Center there, answers some of those questions and addresses queries she and other rheumatologists hear most often.
Here’s what she had to say.
1. It’s Not Your Fault That You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis
There’s a tendency among newly diagnosed patients to blame themselves, says Dr. Husni.
“One of the most common misconceptions about RA is that you did this to yourself,” she says. “We don’t really know the cause of autoimmune diseases, but many times patients will ask, ‘What did I do to get this?’”
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis itself also remains unclear, but like other autoimmune diseases, it’s triggered when the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks healthy tissues and cells, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
Autoimmune diseases, which range from RA to multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, are fairly common; in fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that autoimmune disorders affect more than 23.5 million Americans.
2. You’ll Want to Educate Yourself About Rheumatoid Arthritis
Another important step when you’ve been diagnosed with RA is to become informed about the condition, says Husni.
The fears and ideas that newly diagnosed patients often have about RA usually come from the internet or somebody they know, says Husni, “so patients sometimes get misinformation. Also, I think autoimmune disease is a harder concept to grasp.
Patients often ask me, ‘What does autoimmune mean? I’ve never had this before. I was healthy my whole life.’”
Understanding RA can be a bit difficult, she adds, and patient knowledge about the condition tends to fall along a spectrum. “The first phase upon diagnosis is giving patients the correct information that they need,” Husni emphasizes.
3. Ask Your Doctor How Active Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Is
Before you can make treatment choices, you have to determine how active your RA is.
“The three things rheumatologists normally do are an exam, some blood tests, and look for any X-ray changes in the affected joint,” says Husni. “Those are the three pillars that we look at, and based on whatever they show, we can usually categorize you as having mild disease, mild to moderate disease, or moderate to advanced disease.”
How active the disease is will affect your RA treatment plan. “One of the first things we do is try to figure out where you are on that spectrum, because treatment and advice will change for somebody with mild RA versus somebody with severe RA,” she adds.
4. Other Health Conditions May Affect Your RA Treatment
The CDC reports that about 47 percent of U.S. adults with arthritis also have at least one other condition, referred to by doctors as a comorbid condition.
So another crucial step in treating RA is to find out if you have any comorbidities. “It’s very important to see if you have any associated diseases or disorders that your rheumatologist needs to take into account,”says Husni.
If you have depression, for example, your rheumatologist may not want to prescribe certain RA medications, because they could make your depression worse.
“Another example is if you have a family history of multiple sclerosis. In that case, there are some other medications that can’t be prescribed [for RA],” Husni notes.
It’s also important to have a primary care physician who oversees all aspects of your health, and who can help treat any comorbid conditions you may have.
5. Eat Well, Stop Smoking, and Do What You Can to Stay Healthy
Adopting healthier habits may make living with RA easier, says Husni, adding that you’ll want to keep up with and even improve the healthy habits you already do have.
“For instance, now is not a good time to increase your smoking,” she says, and if you do smoke, you should really make an effort to quit smoking. Smoking is the strongest modifiable risk factor for RA, according to the CDC, increasing your risk by 1.3 to 2.4 times; the habit also interferes with the effectiveness of some RA medications.
“If you are overweight, this might be the time to lose some weight, because it’s stressing your joints on top of the RA,” she notes.
Diet is another modifiable risk factor. “Healthy eating can’t necessarily stop or cure RA,” but it can help you live better with it, says Husni.
Although there’s not a lot of evidence right now that diet specifically helps RA symptoms, she says, “I think there will probably be a lot more information about nutrition in the years to come. I think it’s already happening, and I do believe that it will probably play a role in treating RA.”
“I feel very uncomfortable with intimacy because I feel like my body isn’t attractive anymore,” says Jane, 48.
“I don’t really feel like a woman anymore, breasts are so much part of being a woman, so that’s had a big impact on me and a big part of our relationship.”
In 2014, Jane became one of the 60,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year.
Although she’s responded well to treatment physically, the disease continues to affect her confidence and her relationship with husband, Tim.
Unfortunately, the pair’s experience is far from unique as many couples affected by breast cancer experience unforeseen changes in their relationship.
Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 45 years old, which led to her having surgery six times.
At first she had a series of lumpectomies, where doctors removed tumours from her breast area, but eight months into treatment she was forced to have a mastectomy. She’s now in the process of having reconstructive surgery.
“I thought that when you have breast reconstruction it meant they recreate what you had before, but of course it’s nothing like that,” she tells The Huffington Post UK.
“My body is not the body that I had at all. After I had my mastectomy in 2015 I didn’t show Tim. I didn’t feel like a woman anymore. I didn’t feel like me and that’s been really difficult.”
Jane says the intimate side of her relationship with Tim has “just gone”, which is all too common for couples who’ve been affected by breast cancer.
Statistics from Breast Cancer Care show that nearly nine in every 10 (88%) women with breast cancer say they have lost their self-esteem and confidence in their bodies after treatment.
What’s more, nearly two-thirds (68%) say it has affected their sexual and intimate relationships.