Do you want to know more about arthritis?  Lupus?  Gout?  Fibromyalgia?  About what a rheumatologist does?

Are you having trouble finding the answers you want?

Get the answers to the questions you have right here!

Submit your rheumatology question below.  Every month, a rheumatologist at the University of Alberta will select a few questions and post their answers right here.

Edmonton
Rheumatology
Sarah from Edmonton asks:

I have been prescribed Arava and Cimzia for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
I am wondering does taking a biologic or DMARD offer any protection against the development of other autoimmune conditions.

That's a great questions Sarah.  While Arava is primarily used for the treatment of inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Cimzia, or certolizumab, is an example of a TNF antagonist.  TNF antagonists can be used to treat a variety of other autoimmune diseases.  Examples may include in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's and colitis, psoriasis, uveitis (inflammation in the eye) and other rheumatic conditions like ankylosing spondylitis.  There are many patients who use a TNF antagonist to treat more than one of these conditions at the same time.  While being on a TNF antagonist theoretically might reduce your risk of developing one of these associated conditions, there is never a guarantee that they would completely prevent them from happening.


Jessica from Edmonton asks:

I would like to learn more about hyaluronic acid injections.  Some website say it is for knee joints only, while others say it can be used in the shoulders, hips and ankles as well.  Also, which HA injection solutions are approved for use in Canada? Thanks

Thanks Jessica.  Hyaluronic acid is a molecule which is deficient in a joint affected by osteoarthritis.  Therefore, the thought is it can bring improvement to the joint if injected.  While it likely is used most often for the knee, it can be used for most other large joints as well, including the shoulders and hips.  There are many hyaluronic acid products available in Canada;  while there are differences in how they are made, there is no clear evidence to suggest one is necessarily better than the next. 
Sasi from India asks:

I  was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 3 months ago but my rheumatiod factor blood test was negative. I have a  raised ESR.  I was started on Sulfasalazine.I was just wondering  if I have RA at  all.


Rheumatoid Arthritis is a clinical diagnosis.  This means all your blood tests could be normal and you may still have rheumatoid arthritis.  A diagnosis of RA is made based on the information you provide your physician and based on physical exam findings.  Further investigations may support the diagnosis, but are not necessary for the diagnosis.  Read more about RA here.
Kali from Edmonton asks:

My daughter who is 18 has had IBS since she was 5 and was just diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. They did not do any lab tests at all to confirm it was not rheumatoid arthritis. Is this common? Should I insist on lab tests?  I am worried because I do have RA.

Kali, as we have previously discussed (see below), there is no one blood test that can confirm a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.  In fact, many individuals have rheumatoid arthritis with completely normal blood work.  Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed by an expert physician based on a patient's symptoms and physical exam findings.  While your daughter is at an increased risk for RA because of your family history, her overall risk remains low.  The most important thing you can do is ensure she does not smoke, as smoking has been shown to increase the risk for developing rheumatoid arthriits.



Sarah from Edmonton asks:

How do rheumatologist decide which biologic to use first? Personal/Patient preference, etc??

There are many factors that may decide which biologic is used first, and this is a topic which has become more complicated over the last few years with the introduction of more biologic options.  Most rheumatologists will consider a TNF antagonist as a first biologic, often because currently, these have the most information available for how well they work and their safety.  Over time, this will likely change as newer non-TNF biologics are used more and more.  For some patients, TNF blockers are not considered a safe option and another biologic will then be considered.  Amongst the TNF antagonist options, they are generally very similar in how well they work and how safe they are.  There are some small differences, but for most patients, these are not important from a medical point of view and it can come down to patient preference.  The other important factor to consider is cost.  Biologics remain an expensive medication and sometimes the patient's medication insurance coverage can influence the choice.  However, most rheumatologists will ensure this does not prevent patients from getting the medication they need when they need it.


Ivonne from California asks:

I am seeing a doctor who thinks I have lupus but hasn't diagnosed me; he wants me to see a rheumatologist but it's going to take time for me to be able to afford one. what does it take to get diagnosed?

There is no one particular test to absolutely diagnose systemic lupus.  It requires you to meet with a lupus specialist, usually a rheumatologist, to go over your symptoms, do a complete physical exam and look at this in combination with a set of blood tests.  Unfortunately there is no simpler way.  For more information on how lupus is diagnosed and treated, click here.

Cally from Edmonton asks:

My mother was diagnosed with Behcet's two years ago. She is having a lot of issues with her lungs (vasospasm due to chronic inflammation) and the puffers her GP and emergency doctors gives her only provide minimal relief. Her rheumatologist said her lung issues were unrelated to Behcet's but according to my research it is.

For our other readers, Behcet's disease is a condition of unknown cause which most commonly manifests as painful sores in the mouth and/or gential region.  While not as common, it can also demonstrate eye involvement, skin lesions, neurological findings, arthritis and blood vessel changes.  While lung problems have definitely been reported with Behcet's, it remains unclear whether these are incidental findings where one person has two separate conditions, or if there is a true relationship.  While a rheumatologist is an expert in Behcet's disease, a lung specialist may provide the best insight into any lung issues.

Louise from Edmonton asks:

I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis for 40 years.  Does it ever go away?

As of 2012, there is still no cure for rheumatoid arthritis.  However, our ability to treat RA more effectively has dramatically improved.  Many individuals who are diagnosed with RA today can go into complete remission with medications.  In the last 10 years alone, the way we treat RA has seen great improvement, with many new and exciting treatment options, and better ways to use well known medications as well.

Shannon from Calgary asks:

I was wondering if there is any link between diet and arthritis? Are some foods known to cause an inflammatory reaction?


This is a very common question we get asked.  The link between diet and arthritis is not well described.  There is some evidence that Omega 3 fatty acids may benefit those with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, with Omega 6 and Omega 9 having an opposite pro-inflammatory effect.  For osteoarthritis, a well balanced diet which maintains an appropriate body weight is ideal, as we know being overweight does contribute to arthritis.  Finally, we know smoking is bad for joints, and in particular can increase your risk for rheumatoid arthritis.
Sandy from Busby asks:

What can I take to relieve nausea while taking medication for rheumatoid arthritis.  I am taking sulfasalazine, chloroquine, and methotrexate, as well as an anti-inflammatory?

Most medications, whether for arthritis or not, have nausea or stomach upset as a potential side effect.  It is important to discuss nausea and any suspected side effect with your rheumatologist as they may be able to determine which medication specifically is causing the problem and make an adjustment accordingly.


Brenda from High Level asks:

Once youve been started on a biologic fror Rheumatoid Arthritis and the changes in symptoms after two years are not significantly improved, do you have to stay on a biologic?

This is a very complicated question.  As of 2012, there is still no cure for rheumatoid arthritis.  Our goal is put RA into remission, meaning no stiffness, pain or swelling while improving function and limiting joint damage.  If a patient has truly not reached this goal, or at least has not seen significant improvement, it may be worthwhile discussing alternate options with your rheumatologist.  However, there can be other reasons why there has been a lack of perceived improvement.  For example, as many as one-third of RA patients also develop fibromyalgia; while the RA goes into remission, the fibromyalgia remains, making it appear there is still inflammation.  For others, there may be significant improvement in RA activity, but not 100%, meaning it still feel active.  In this case, it may be worthwhile reviewing and optimizing the current medication regimen.
Ray from Edmonton asks:

I have what has been described by my family doctor as Heberden's nodes on one finger of my left hand.  The area fills up with a clear jelly like fluid and needs to be drained regularily to relieve the pressure and eventual pain.  Is a referral required to see a rheumatologist to have this problem further assessed?

A Heberden's node is a bony enlargement of the most distal joint in a finger.  It is most associated with osteoarthritis, which you can read more about here.  A Heberden's node can be painful, but typically is not fluid filled.


Wendy from Fort Lauderdale/, U.S.A asks:

I've been recently diagnosed with systemic lupus, sjogren's syndrome, and nephrotic syndrome and I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything. I haven't received really any education only management or much about how the diseases may impact me.  What should I expect from a rheumatologist in general but especially in regards to education? 

Different rheumatologists have different ways they run their practise.  Many ensure they become the primary care provider for any concerns and questions around the rheumatologic diagnosis.  Often, but not always, it is the rheumatologist's task to ensure you have the information you need when it comes to your rheumatologic diagnosis.  Sometimes, this education is provided by the rheumatologist him or herself.  Sometimes, they may first ask you to review websites like ours, or have an education program available for you to attend.


Kathryn from Drayton Valley asks:

How do I get an appointment with a rheumatologist?  Will they do test to determine exactly what type of arthritis I have?

To see a rheumatologist in Alberta, a patient usually needs their family doctor to send a referral letter with a specific question or concern.  As you may have noticed from exploring some of our webpages, most types of arthritis are best diagnosed by your rheumatologist taking a good history and performing a physical exam.  There are a number of blood tests ann/or imaging tests that could be considered as well, but this is guided by  the information obtained from your clinic visit.


Lynn from Sherwood Park asks:

How can what looks like minor swelling in my wrists and hands cause such a huge amount of pain?  I didn't think it was possible for a limb to be in so much pain, short of a catastrophic injury.  Is it just me, or is it fairly common for people to have a great deal of pain when RA  "flares up"?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease which causes pain, stiffness and swelling.  Each patient experiences these symptoms differently, but many describe a great deal of pain.  Remember, the amount of swelling that is present does not always correlate with the pain it causes.  The mere presence of swelling can cause a significant amount of pain.


Marissa from Edmonton asks:

With lupus, is it ok to get pregnant and have a normal pregnancy or do you have to be cautious or is it not possible? I don't want to be on medication.

Please check out our new information page on this topic here.  The most important thing is to discuss your pregnancy plans with your rheumatologist to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Brian from Edmonton asks:

Is it important to see your Rheumatologist after starting a new drug such as the Biologics?

Yes, it is important to see your rheumatologist after starting a biologic or any DMARD medication.  With your rheumatologist, you need always review your medications to make sure they are working effectively and they remain safe.


Tony from Spruce Grove asks:

I have been suffering pain in both toes beside my big toes on both feet.  It started in my left foot which was diagnosed as juvenile arithitis at 16.  I'm 43 now and it seems to only "flare up" on occassion in the last year or so really bad.  My eating habits aren't the worst or bad in many ways but it seems to not be any better after taking a prescription that the GP described.


There are more than 100 different types of arthritis.  While some have similarities, many have different treatment regimens.  For instance, the treatment for juvenile arthritis and gout are very different from each other.  The most important thing is ensure the right diagnosis - that will ensure all patients get the right treatment.


Monica from Edmonton asks:

I was diagnosed with RA and am on the methotrexate/Plaquenil combination. Others I know also on these drugs were told they needed to take calcium as well. Should I be taking calcium supplements?

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis do have an increased risk of osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones.  Ensuring appropriate calcium and Vitamin D intake can help reduce this risk and it is best to discuss an appropriate dosage with your rheumatologist.  Calcium supplementation itself will not help treat rheumatoid arthritis.


Margaret from Edmonton asks:

I have been taking methotrexate(by injection) and plaquenel for nearly 6 months.  I have had what I can only describe as a dry cough.  It is a feeling that I need to keep clearing my throat and at times have trouble with my voice where it just isn't very strong.  Could this be a side effect of one of the medications?  If so what can or should I do about it if anything?

A rare risk of methotrexate is to causing scarring to the lungs.  Sometimes this can manifest as unexplained shortness of breath or a cough.  Most rheumatologists will ask their patients to contact them if they have any concerns in this regard.  In most cases, it is merely a coincidence as again, this side effect is rare.

M.J. from Calgary asks:

I have many signs and symptoms of Limited Scleroderma but my test for the antibodies came back negative, so no diagnosis. I've read that eventually the antibodies will increase. Is that true?  Would getting retested yearly be logical?  Or is there another way to get a diagnosis?

Scleroderma is best diagnosed by a specialist with training in scleroderma... most often this is a rheumatologist.  The diagnosis is primarily made based on your story and the physical exam findings.  While there are blood tests which are highly associated with scleroderma, blood tests for scleroderma do not have to be positive to have scleroderma.
Marie from Edmonton asks:

Whenever I visit a health specialist with regards to my rheumatology one of the questions asked is "Am I depressed?"  I never am and am wondering why they would always ask that question.

Many rheumatic diseases are associated with higher rates than usual of depression, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and ankylosing spondylitis.  Often this may correlate with disease activity - if your body feels down, your mind may feel down too - or with your ability to cope with a chronic medical condition.  Good coping skills and hopefully good disease control may counteract the risk of depression and it sounds like this may describe you.

Chris from Edmonton asks:

I believe I have undiagnosed Sjogrens Syndrome. Is it worthwhile for me to get an official diagnosis?

Individuals with Sjogren's Syndrome most often describe dry eyes and dry mouth which is quite severe and without other explanation.  Some will also describe both local joint pain or more diffuse pains, changes in feeling or strength, bowel changes, skin rashes and more.  Sjogren's syndrome can range from a very mild disease treated symptomatically to a life threatening condition if not properly treated.  It is therefore worthwile to discuss this further with your family physician.

Judi from Washington DC asks:

What is the connection between food and gout?  What is the suggested diet for gout control?

Gout is caused by excess purine levels - a protein found most often in meat - which causes higher levels of uric acid in the blood.  Purines are difficult to avoid, and a purine free diet would leave you with a poor diet with limited choices.  While reducing purine intake will lower your uric acid a small amount, it may not be enough to prevent further gout attacks.  However, if you notice a specific food seems to cause a gout attack everytime you have it, it would make sense to avoid it.  Examples may include a specific type of meat, nuts, etc.  For more information, visit our webpage on gout.

Margaret from Edmonton asks:

Would it be a good idea for a person with Rheumatoid Arthritis (on plaquenel)  to get the vaccine for shingles?

In general, any "live vaccine", including the vaccine for shingles, requires caution if you are on an immunomodulating agent.  There is greater concern with individuals on stronger DMARDs such as methotrexate, leflunomide or biologics.  You should always discuss this with your rheumatologist prior to getting a live vaccine.  The injected flu shot (not the spray) and vaccine for pneumonia and hepatitis are all safe vaccines in the setting of rheumatoid arthritis and any treatment option.
Anonymous from Canada asks:

I was diagnosed with SLE, and have been taking plaquenil. Will I ever be able to go off of this medication? Is there any natural diet/foods I can take instead?

To read more about plaquenil, click here.  Overall, plaquenil is a very safe medication.  For lupus, it can effectively treat the so called milder components of the disease, including joint and skin symptoms.  However, there is reasonable evidence that individuals who take plaquenil have a reduced risk of developing more serious and life changing organ involvement (e.g. kidney disease).  It is for that reason that many rheumatologists will suggest you remain on plaquenil.  As of today, there are no natural products that bring similar benefit to lupus patients as plaquenil.

Tammy from Fort Saskatchewan asks:

I am wondering if there is any connection between hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia?  I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and I am hypothyroid already. The pain I feel in my body, especially my legs is almost unbearable.

Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning there cannot be another medical explanation for its symptoms.  One of the tests that should be done prior to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is to ensure the patient does not have any form of thyroid disease, and if they do, to ensure it is well controlled.  Certainly, untreated hypothyroidism could have some symptoms that are similar to fibromyalgia.

Deborah from Edmonton asks:

I have chronic muscle and joint pain, which is worse when I wake in the morning and in the evening or if I am inactive. Sometimes I
can barely get up off the chair. I also suffer from headaches and fatigue.  My doctors THINK I may have fibromyalgia but, of course there is no test to determine this.  Where do I go from here?


Fibromyalgia is a clinical diagnosis.  There is no test for it, and in fact, your tests should be normal.  In patients where alternatives have been ruled out, and the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is suspected, an appropriate treatment plan should be put in place.  This should include a slow progressive increase in exercise and further education about fibromyalgia.
Debbie from Calgary asks:

My father in law had RA, my husband has RA and so do I. Will our 3 children be at greater risk for developing RA?

First degree relatives of an individual with rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk for developing RA themselves.  However, this risk is not substantial; it is more likely they will not have rheumatoid arthritis than they will.  Smoking also increases your risk for RA and it may be advisable that first degree relatives do not smoke as genetic susceptability and smoking will greatly increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Trish from Edmonton asks:

I have positive ANAs and have just experienced a miscarriage that I believe may be related. I have read that positive ANAs can cause recurrent
miscarriages and am scared that this will happen again. Are there any treatments that reduce the risk of miscarriage with an unspecified autoimmune disease (not SLE, no RA)?


A positive ANA, or anti-nuclear antibody, can be used as a marker for a number of autoimmune diseases.  However, on its own, there is no evidence that it causes disease or miscarriage.  If an autoimmune disease is suspected, an evalution by a trained medical specialist may be appropriate.  Only when an autoimmune disease or other cause for a miscarriage is identified can any specific treatment plan be considered.

Patricia from Edmonton asks:

I am recently diagnosed with gout and taking for the last 18 months Allopurinol daily and Cochicine when needed.  How long does it take to lower Uric Acid? Would a dietician be of help?

If the dose of allopurinol is correct, uric acid should be lowered within 4-6 weeks with the full effect - decreased gout flares - noted within 3-6 months.  If the uric acid is not properly lowered, than consideration should be given to raising the dose of the allopurinol.  A dietician may be helpful in some cases to review foods that may have a greater effect on uric acid levels but as a general rule is not necessary.

Lynne from Edmonton asks: Could you please discuss the link between RA and Fibromyalgia? I have been diagnosed with RA but at times my whole body hurts...just wondering if that might be what I have..
Up to one-third of patients with rheumatoid arthritis may also develop fibromyalgia. As the rheumatoid arthritis gets under better control, your sleep will improve as will your ability to be more active; this should lead to improvement in the more diffuse pain from the fibromyalgia too.
Michelle from Sunny Island Beach asks: I have RA and Lupus and have been taking Methotrexate and Plaquenil in combination with rituximab. My insurance will no longer cover Rituxan but it will cover Humira or Enbrel. Is it possible to replace rituximab with a TNF blocker? My doctor told me I can't "step down" from rituximab to another medication.
For rheumatoid arthritis, there is no clear evidence to suggest any biologic when used under optimal conditions is better than another. A patient would never be stepping down between different biologics, just switching. However, patients with lupus do need to be cautious with TNF blockers as they can exacerbate their disease. Rituximab is considered safer for lupus patients.
Chris from Sherwood Park asks: I am taking methotrexate injections. folic acid and Humira for my RA. I seem to be getting many more canker sores lately. Is there anything else I can do besides taking the folic acid to prevent them?
Mouth sores can be a side effect from methotrexate and one you should discuss with your rheumatologist to determine the best way at treating them. Options include increasing the dose of folic acid, decreasing the methotrexate, or replacing folic acid with folinic acid. The choice is unique to each patient's situation and should be discussed with your doctor.
Carmen from Edmonton asks: Can I safely take Tylenol for pain while receiving Methotrexate injections?
Over the counter pain relievers such as acetominophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are all generally safe to take with methotrexate.
Tiger from Alberta asks: Is an MRI ever used to help diagnose rheumatic disease?
MRI is a sophisticated imaging technology which can look at bone and soft tissue in the body. In rheumatology, an MRI is most often used to help detect signs of inflammation. However, this is not commonly done as inflammation can usually be detected on physical examination with your rheumatologist.
Betty-Lou from Edmonton asks: I have bursitis of my hip. What should I do?
Trochanteric bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa on the lateral (outside) aspect of the hip. It can hurt more with walking or lying on the affected side. Treatment options may include physiotherapy (see our Regional MSK Disorders page for some basic ones to start), anti-inflammatory if appropriate, and sometimes a cortisone injection into the bursa.
Joanne from Edmonton asks: I have had 6 episodes of iritis in the last 3 years. Based on the fact that I have had iritis my doctor has done blood work and said one level is slightly elevated. I am wondering if I should be referred to a rheumatologist for further investigation.
Iritis is an inflammatory disease of the iris, the coloured ring around your pupil. Iritis can occur for many different reasons, but can be associated with some rheumatic diseases, most commonly ankylosing spondylitis. It is not uncommon for an eye specialist to refer a patient with uveitis to a rheumatologist for further investigation when another underlying cause for iritis (also known as uveitis) cannot be found.
Carolina from Calgary asks: My husband has AS and may be starting a TNF blocker. We were told once he starts it, he will be on it for life, even if he goes into complete remission because the worst thing to do with biologics is to start and stop them since it may increase immunity to it. So, if after a while he is free of symptoms, can he to try to wean off the med or does he have to take it for the rest of his life?
Assuming a good response to a biologic for ankylosing spondylitis or rheumatoid arthritis, one can always try to see if the disease will remain under control off medication, be it a biologic or traditional DMARD. There is a risk of the disease flaring of course, and there is a risk of not having as a good a response to the same medications a second time. However, many patients do this and most do not have problems restarting their medications again.
Julia from Edmonton asks: What tests are done to confirm RA? Is it possible to have normal blood labs and still have this disease?
There is no test that confirms a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Your story and an appropriate physical exam by your rheumatologist is the best way to make a diagnosis. To answer your question, it is very possible and common to have completely normal blood tests and still have rheumatoid arthritis.
Molly from Portland asks: In regards to Lupus, I was interested in learning about the connection between how high an ANA titer was and disease activity and/or severity. Is there any way someone with a low titre could have more activity and/or more severe signs and symptoms than someone with a higher titre?
In 2013, most patients who have systemic lupus must be ANA positive. Conversely, a negative ANA essentially rules out a diagnosis of systemic lupus. However, an ANA test is not typically used to follow disease activity. Therefore, a higher titre does not correlate well with disease activity. Other investigations, including markers of inflammation, complement levels, and other antibodies correlate better, but even then, it is not a perfect tool.
Pat from Sherwood Park asks: I have DeQuervain's tenosynovitis. What are my treatment options?
DeQuervain's tenosynovitis (see our regional MSK disorders webpage) is a tendonitis found at the base of the thumb extending up the lateral aspect of the forearm. There are many available treatment options, including splinting, anti-inflammatories, and perhaps most important, physiotherapy. A cortisone injection is also an option for some patients. If possible, it is important to identify the underlying cause to prevent it from returning.
Carolina from Calgary asks: Once you are on a TNF blocker, do you have to stay on it for life?
If you start a TNF blocker, you DO NOT have to be on it forever. It is safe to start or stop. However, when you stop it, there is a risk of your symptoms returning; there is also a small risk of it not being as effective if you restart it.
Randy from Edmonton asks: I have been taking Plaquenil, Methotrexate injections and Humira for my RA. My blood work has been excellent but I am tired of taking the injections. Will I ever be able to get off of these medications?
For rheumatoid arthritis, the first goal is reach remission - no pain, no swelling, no joint stiffness and doing everything you want to do. After some time that a patient reaches that point, it is very reasonable to have a conversation with your rheumatologist to determine if you need to continue on the same medications, or whether you can try to make any changes. While some people with rheumatoid arthritis are able to reduce medications over time, only a small minority are able to stop medications completely while keeping their arthritis in remission.
Andrea from Edmonton asks: I have been diagnosed with RA.. My eyes seem to be dry quite often and I put eye refresh drops in them. Could this be due to the RA?
Dry eyes and dry mouth are commonly associated with rheumatoid arthritis and is part of the autoimmune process. Sometimes, by treating rheumatoid arthritis, the dryness also shows improvement. Sjogren's syndrome is another autoimmune disease which rheumatologists treat which is characterized by dry eyes and mouth. In the meantime, symptomatic treatment is the mainstay - artificial tear drops can be a start as can a visit with your eye specialist for further management options.
Roberta from Calgary asks: I have RA. My knee has been very very sore for a week now. It hurts to bend and stretch it. For the last few months I have been working in the gym by walking a mile on the treadmill and on the bike for 3 miles. I have stopped using the gym for a week and yet my knee is still in an immense amount of pain.. Advil does not help. Should I continue the gym workouts or wait until my knee no longer hurt?
In general, exercise does not make rheumatoid arthritis worse. In fact, strong muscles around joints may help with pain. However, as a general rule for anyone who has or does not have rheumatoid arthritis, you should always listen to your body when it comes to pain. If it hurts to do it, stop.
Duane from Sherwood Park asks: Would you provide me with a list of all the symptoms for Polymyalgia Rheumatica?
Polymyalgia rheumatica is an autoimmune condition best characterized as pain and stiffness moreso in the muscles around the shoulders and hips. It may be worse in the morning. It is occassionally associated with giant cell arteritis, a type of vasculitis that can cause headache, difficulty chewing, scalp tenderness and if not treated quickly, blindness. As a general rule, PMR only occurs in individuals older than 50 years of age.
Tracy from Edmonton asks: Do I need to be referred to a rheumatologist to see one?
Most rheumatologists in Alberta require a referral letter from a family physician or another specialist before they see a patient for the first time.
Gerda from Edmonton asks: I am 31 and was diagnosed with RA in November. I am on methotrexate and Plaquenil. My understanding is that the plan is to continue adding medications until the disease is "under control." I am wondering what kind of criteria rheumatologists use to define "under control."
Today, the goal for all patients with rheumatoid arthritis is complete remission. This means no joint pain, swelling or stiffness. Ideally, you should not be limited in your day to day activities because of your joints, and hopefully not using any medications for pain such as anti-inflammatories.
Roy from Edmonton asks: I am taking Humira for my RA and was advised not to take any live vaccines. I am somewhat concerned about developing Shingles but because that is a live vaccine I have not taken it. Are there other vaccines I could take instead to prevent Shingles or for that matter, Pneumonia?
It is advised that patients on biologics do not use any live vaccines, including the vaccines for MMR, shingles, and intranasal influenza vaccine. Vaccines that are not live, including the regular flu shot and one for pneumonia, are not problematic. In fact, it is encouraged that all patients with rheumatoid arthritis do get their annual flu shot.
With regards to shingles specifically, while there had been some concern of an increased risk developing shingles for those on biologics in the past, a recent report suggets that may not be the case.
Jo from Canada asks: Should people with Lupus take vitamins?
There is no reason not to take vitamin supplements if you have lupus. In fact, because of a potential increased risk of osteoporosis in inflammatory conditions such as lupus, as well as Canada's northern and sun lacking climate, it is advisable to take Vitamin D supplements and ensure your dietary Calcium intake is also appropriate. Visit our page on osteoporosis for more information.
Omar from Egypt asks: what is the best treatment for SLE?
There is no one best treatment for lupus. Depending on a given patient's specific symptoms and blood work, your rheumatologist will tailor a treatment plan that fufills your individual needs.
For more information on lupus treatment, visit our lupus webpage.
From 2012: