The treatment is to suppress the immune system activity, thereby preventing the pain, inflammation and damage that this causes.
The more severe the disease, the more immunosuppression required to get the disease under control.
This all sounds very logical. But where does this leave the patient? With a suppressed immune system, and therefore unable to fight off, what for ‘normal’ people, are simple, non-serious infections.
Another serious aspect of RA and other autoimmune diseases that the general population don’t seem to understand.
I asked a friend recently not to bring her child to my house if she was sick. She did anyway. “She only has a little cold” is how she justified it.
Now, I don’t know how I picked up the ‘little cold’ that I am currently fighting. I could have gotten it anywhere. But this is what happened.
Friend dropped child with ‘little cold’ to my house. Two days later my daughter came down with a cold, the next day she was running a high fever. Her fever lasted two days. She had a sore throat, a headache and was sneezing. No cough. A head cold.
She slept with me at night, as she was feeling miserable.
She was almost better on the third day. I started to get sick.
The next day I had a headache, sore throat, sinus pain, nose so blocked I couldn’t breathe. But no fever. Just a cold. Fingers crossed it will be mild, I tell myself.
Three days later I finally had to go to the doctor. After three nights with no sleep, deep chest pain when breathing, coughing up revolting stuff, intense headache, sore throat and a deep sense of disbelief that one body can create so much snot, I realised I was quite sick. My body ached all over and I had no appetite. I only forced food down because I needed it to take my RA meds. I felt dizzy every time I stood up. Nauseous constantly. And exhausted. I felt feverish, but my temp didn’t get over 38 degrees C. Which is the line that I was told was where you need to see a doctor when you are on immunosuppressive drugs like Enbrel. So I held off.
I should have gone earlier. I was really sick. I don’t know why I don’t recognise how sick I am until someone else tells me.
I am currently on Enbrel, methotrexate and high dose prednisone. Three potent immunosuppressant drugs. And plaquenil as well. Only a mild drug, but I guess it contributes.
My doctor prescribed some very strong antibiotics. Sinus infection, lung infection, possibly pneumonia.
He said go to bed. Go directly to bed. REST!
So that’s what I have been doing. The antibiotics are amazing…after 24 hours I feel a lot better. Long ways to go though.
But the message here is:
Your simple cold might be an immunosuppressed person’s pneumonia or hospitalisation.
I am feeling very miserable and sick, but I’m not in any real danger. The antibiotics are working well. But simple diseases can be very serious for immunosuppressed people. People who have autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis.
We are NOT over reacting. We are NOT being hypochondriacs. The risk is REAL!
Please understand. Don’t do the eye-roll. Don’t brush it off as ‘minor’.
It’s not minor. It can be very serious. I am not likely to fully recover from this ‘minor cold’ for at least another week. It still hurts to breathe. My head is still exploding. I still ache all over. I really didn’t need this right now. It is school holidays here, and my kids have spent the entire time at home with a sick mother. I feel guilty and depressed along with everything else.
The upside? My joint pain is mild. It’s a strange thing that always happens when I get sick. My immune system is too busy to attack my joints? Maybe.
I’ll take any upside I can get.