Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My RA and MS Diagnoses: The Autoimmune Diseases Jackpot

It is hard to know if symptoms of multiple sclerosis or symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis delayed the diagnosis of either disease in my case. My journey reached a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in October 2005 with the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in April 2007 -- 18 months later.

But it was in 1993 that I first experienced symptoms now believed to be related to multiple sclerosis. These symptoms included impaired vision, headaches, and depression in the months following a minor whiplash event. The doctors at the student clinic in the School of Optometry at Indiana University suggested that I have an MRI. Basically, they wanted to make sure I didn't have a brain tumor. I did not have a brain tumor. Any inflammation of the optic nerve that might have been present had resolved by the time I had the MRI. Eventually my vision problems and headache went back to normal leaving me with a mysterious, unexplained event.

In 1995, I tripped on the way to a concert by the Evansville Philharmonic. I don't know what I tripped on, but I trashed my french horn, sprained my wrists, and broke my left arm just above the elbow (hairline fracture). After this event, I developed an achiness in my left arm and wrist that I simply became accustomed to over the years.

For the next five years, I had several random and vague complaints which centered on my hands, which I wrote about in "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Not?" Being seronegative certainly delayed my RA diagnosis, but likely reminding the doctor that “I had optic neuritis in 2000 and my mother has lupus” probably didn’t help either. During these years, I also experienced fatigue, weakness, and walking problems. But I still didn't have a diagnosis of either disease.

Read this post in its entirety:

Which came first, a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or multiple sclerosis (MS)?


  1. I'm with you on this one! The numbness in my arms was probably an old football injury, and a family history of vision issues meant it was my turn. Good luck figuring yours out,


  2. Luckily, both RA and MS respond great to low dose naltrexone therapy (like most autoimmune diseases do).

  3. I'm a member of the club that has MS and RA and another club that has Crohn's Disease.

    All three diseases are treated with steroids, in varying strengths and usually at different times, but sometimes at the same time.

    This week, RA is the prominent disease and the doc wants to wean me off the prednisone and get started back on Decadron because it seems that I was doing better on that drug.

    Decadron is still a steroid but a bit more powerful than prednisone or methotrexate.

    I choose to stay on prednisone because it is the lesser of all the evils.

    One more doctor I am trying to convince that I DO NOT want to change drugs again and to please leave my drug regimen alone and just help me over the humps.

    So the prednisone is again increased to be followed by a taper to get back to maintenance dose. I had IVSM in December and don't want it again unless I absolutely have to have it. RA stuff is pain, stiffness, fingers/toes cramps/spasms and swelling.

    For me Crohn's came at age 12, then came MS at 23, then the RA at 33 - every ten years. Ages 43 and 53 came and went with no new diseases - so the 10 year curse has been broken. LOL

  4. What I want to know is if you went on to PLAY at the concert?? Somehow, I rather bet you did! Is it uncool to say you "popped up like a rock star" when playing in a symphony? LOL

  5. Andy, I hear ya.

    Anne, funny. I really can't take Prednisone but Decadron agrees with my body. So that's the oral steroid I take if I need one.

    Linda, ABSOLUTELY I played the concert. One of my first concerns was, "can I have some ice, please? and an aspirin?" Believe it or not, these items were difficult to locate backstage.

    I'd like to think that I was a trouper. In fact, it took a week and 2 trips to the campus healthcenter to determine that I really did have a hairline fracture.

    Of course, the symphony management was concerned with WHERE I was when I fell. Was it city property or symphony hall property?

    A rock star I was. :)

  6. Very interesting work here as I too have MS, blog as well as a rock musician in my spare time (more like when I can walk onstage;)

    While my blog centers around conservative issues, I often discuss the disease and it's impact on me and my politics...I added myself to your tribe and enjoyed your post ;>)