A reader recently shared a link to an excellent online video featuring Dr. Edward Keystone from the University of Toronto. He is a long time rheumatologist and researcher in Canada. I would encourage all RA patients and caregivers to watch this video as it provides superb information about the disease and treatment options. One comment Dr. Keystone made specifically caught my attention. He said,
“Arthritis in like a fire in the body.”
This comment connected to a statement made by my rheumatologist last year who said that RA was “smoldering” in my body. She was referring to the fact that pain and swelling were hanging around and not reduced by treatment.
According to an article in Medical News Today, “The word inflammation comes from the Latin ‘inflammo’, meaning ‘I set alight, I ignite’.” According to an excellent article from Oregon State University,
“The inflammatory process involves a complex biological cascade of molecular and cellular signals that alter physiological responses, ultimately resulting in the familiar clinical symptoms. At the site of the injury, cells release molecular signals that cause a number of changes in the affected area: dilation of blood vessels, increased blood flow, increased vascular permeability, exudation of fluids containing proteins like immunoglobulins (antibodies), and invasion by leukocytes (white blood cells).”
Inflammation is a nemesis to the body and is behind many illnesses and conditions. It can be either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is usually associated with trauma or infection and is usually localized in the body for a short period of time. Chronic inflammation occurs over a long period of time and is usually associated with autoimmune issues or long term infections. Inflammation caused by RA clearly falls into the chronic category.
When treatments work, I can tell that the fire is under control. Other times it feels like the coals of RA are smoldering and hanging around getting ready to burst into a full blown fire. When treatments aren’t working, it feels like there is an out of control blaze in my body that can’t be extinguished. At those times, I wish that the firefighters would come in with all of their equipment to battle the fire.