Patient Stories

Rheumatoid Arthritis

I started showing symptoms of joint pain particularly in my left ankle during 2005 and it was originally diagnosed as gout. The medication I was on gradually bought that under control to a certain point.

However, although the swelling in the ankle had improved, I was still experiencing pain there and in other joints.  In 2006, the pain increased dramatically to the point where I had difficulty driving and walking. After having further consultations with the rheumatologist and additional blood tests carried out, the distressing diagnosis was made in November 2006 that I was suffering from RA. My ESR reading at that time was 24. Such was the pain I had been experiencing that I could not even drive myself to the hospital for this consultation.

The emotions I felt after hearing this diagnosis were fear, anger and frustration. I was used to leading a very active life, and the pain and physical limitations I was experiencing increased my stress levels and made me feel deeply depressed at the thought that I would have an incurable disease for the rest of my life.

After the diagnosis, I started a 12 mg weekly course of Methotrexate. To assist the medication, I decided to cut out all alcohol, avoid processed foods and to eat a very bland diet of freshly cooked vegetables reducing red meat, and increasing chicken and fish. I also found that taking short rests in the afternoons for an hour or so helped. I found that extreme fatigue was one of the problems I experienced, and I felt that the side-effects of the Methotrexate undoubtedly contributed to this.

Within three to four months, the pain and swelling in the left ankle (the worst joint affected) was slowly subsiding. In fact, by April 2007 (only 5 months after starting Methotrexate), I was able to travel to Australia for 5 weeks. My son, who lives in Sydney, suggested that I would like to do the famous Sydney Habour Bridge climb (actually it is not a climb, just a series of metal gangways), and I said I would give it a go! It was an amazing experience.

During the rest of 2007, the pain and swelling continued to subside. The ESR readings were gradually dropping so that by November 2007, a year after the diagnosis, the ESR was down to 6 and I was able to reduce the Methotrexate to 10 mgs. By January 2008, my ESR was down to 2 and the specialist recommended a further drop in the medication to 7.5 mgs.

During 2008, my ESR readings did not rise above 6, I felt better in myself and I found I was able to undertake physical work, such as gardening and household maintenance, without too much of a problem. Physically, I was a lot stronger and driving and walking were no problem.

I wondered, if I was still taking the very strong medication, how I would if I had gone into remission, and I asked my specialist if I could stop the medication altogether to see whether the swelling and pain would return and he agreed.

I stopped the medication at the end of January 2009 and waited with a little anxiety to see if the symptoms would return during the following months. Thankfully, nothing happened and my next appointment to see the specialist was on the 23 July 2009. My DAS (disease activity score) was 0.91.

My latest consultation was in January 2010, where the specialist stated that his assessment was that I was entirely symptom free, with no pain, swelling, stiffness or loss of movement and was discharging me from his clinic.

I feel that having a positive approach to this problem and actively managing my diet and weight helped. I did not allow myself to get overtired, resting when I felt particularly fatigued. This, may (and I stress may), have contributed to my going into remission, which I hope will continue.

Cycle to Work Scheme

I recommend cycling as a form of exercise or as an alternative to walking. Your body is supported, you can travel further, see more of the countryside and it does wonders for your general health.

My husband and I usually take our bikes with us when we travel in our caravan for weekends or holidays – it is much better and more fun than exploring in the car! If you don’t have a bicycle or would like a newer model, you can get government assistance to purchase one, provided you are a UK tax payer and your employer is registered with and supports the Cycle to Work scheme. The discount can be as high as 40% if you pay a higher rate of tax and NI contributions.

The scheme works as a lease agreement over a period of twelve months with a small final payment to purchase the bike, so you don’t even have to find the total cost up front. Halfords and many local cycle shops support the scheme. Clothing and equipment can be included in the purchase and the overall spend is up to a total of £1000.

Nearly symptom free from Rheumatoid Arthritis

I was enjoying a short holiday in Florence when I woke up on the day before we were due to return home to acutely painful and incapacitatingly swollen wrists and hands. Travelling home and surviving the weekend on ibuprofen, I was relieved to seek medical advice on the Monday morning.

Blood tests were taken to try to identify the problem and ten days later I saw Dr Mahmud for the first time. By then my feet, ankles and legs had swollen out of recognition and with everything extremely achy and painful. With the added complication of very high blood pressure, I was acutely uncomfortable.

Rheumatoid Arthritis was diagnosed and I was thankfully given an injection to reduce the swelling and pain.

Following satisfactory tests I was started on a course of Methotrexate and the swelling continued to go down and the achy pain diminished. This has improved as the drug dosage has been increased.

Arrange a Consultant appointment today

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Regular blood tests, designed to highlight any associated problems, are reassuring and 14 weeks on from the start of this treatment, I am feeling almost back to normal and have returned to regular Pilates classes, with care.

If I overdo activities I am certainly aware of it and have to take a rest – tiredness being the most obvious symptom of the continuing presence of the disease. I am very lucky to have been started on this course of treatment so quickly after the diagnosis.