Fearing the Future
After the initial symptoms of arthritis are experienced, patients usually try some form of self-treatment prior to seeking advice from a physician. The onset of the disease, which is different for each individual, surely provokes feelings of uncertainty. Once the diagnosis of arthritis is confirmed, arthritis patients have questions -- many of them unanswerable at that point.
The uncertainty which can consume newly-diagnosed arthritis patients lead them to try to obtain a prognosis combined with some measure of reassurance. With the realization that arthritis is not the same for everyone and that symptoms range from mild to severe with periods of flares and remissions, the newly-diagnosed arthritis patient is anxious to know what the future holds. With no way of predicting the future, fear can set in.
- Will I become disabled?
- How will arthritis change my life?
- Will I be able to continue working?
- How will I cope?
Answers Come Later
Answers to these questions become more apparent over time. It is best for the arthritis patient to focus on how to deal with the disease and not on their fears. Learning about the disease, choosing the right doctor, adhering to the chosen treatment plan, maintaining a positive attitude, and becoming part of a support community are important parts of the coping mechanism.
Though the fear that comes with having a chronic disease is normal and natural, it is important to keep it in perspective. Concentrating on the fear can be a distraction from whatever must be done to best cope with the pain, fatigue, and limitation of arthritis. Fear can enhance feelings of stress, and stress can negatively impact the disease. By accepting the situation and working toward controlling the disease, the patient has the best chance for a good outcome.
It Happened to Me
My first symptoms appeared in 1974. After waiting a short time for the symptoms to disappear and realizing that they would not, I began my quest for answers with my family physician. I was put on a large dose of aspirin to treat the pain and swelling in my knee. The treatment helped but the situation was not resolved as the pain spread to my hip. I was only 19 years old and athletic. My doctor first considered sports injury and not arthritis as the cause. I was referred to an orthopedic specialist and after more x-rays and blood tests, it was determined that I had rheumatoid arthritis.
Each of us has a story to tell about the onset of our disease. Go to our forum and tell your story. A likely commonality in each story will be the confusion that abounded during the pre-diagnostic phase. Confusion precedes fear and the unknown feeds fear.
In the 1970s, arthritis was treated with a conservative approach. In recent years, the approach has changed and early, aggressive treatment is recommended. By concentrating on the best treatment approach and by following "The 8 Best Things to Do for Arthritis", fear can be tempered.