One thing that RA patients learn over the long run is that there are all sorts of collateral issues that arise from both the disease and the treatments. Every health care provider I visit, including doctors, dentists, physical therapists, ophthalmologists, etc. is aware of my conditions and treatments. And they understand the wide-ranging impact of the disease. For example, my ophthalmologist is aware of my history of eye inflammation (iritis) caused by RA and he regularly checks for that. He also knows of my medicines and the potential impact on the eyes. My dentist knows that RA patients may suffer gum disease and jaw bone problems. So I have regular cleanings and checkups.
The strong medicines used to treat RA also cause collateral damage via side effects. My rheumatologist likes to quip “we treat the RA and then have to treat the side effects from the powerful medicines.” But she’s adamant that there is no way she would recommend not treating the RA. The impact of RA without treatment is too great to consider that. A recent side effect battle that I’ve been waging is chronic sinus infections most certainly exacerbated by a suppressed immune system caused by Orencia and Arava. Yes, I had sinus infections over the years probably due to anatomical issues in my sinuses. But the combination of anatomy and a suppressed immune system was too much for me to handle. So, in addition to dealing with RA symptoms, I have to also deal with sinus issues and an upcoming sinus surgery next week.
All of this goes to demonstrate that RA patients must be persistent in dealing with the primary and secondary issues of the disease and its treatments. It’s a life-long battle and like with any battle, there’s bound to be collateral damage.