Common beliefs about rheumatic conditions
Rheumatic diagnoses are among our most common chronic diseases. Nevertheless, there are large knowledge gaps, and these often cause misunderstandings. Elsa lists some common misconceptions.
A preconceived notion or ignorance can show up anytime and anywhere—at work, in social contexts, when you seek care, and perhaps even when interacting with the ones closest to you. It can feel diminishing, hurtful or have consequences such as you not getting the care you would need. Have you ever encountered these misconceptions?
1. “Only old people get rheumatism”
A rheumatic disease can break out at any time in life. The most common rheumatic diagnosis, RA, breaks out in most people between the ages of 50 and 70 (1), but many also become ill earlier. JIA, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, affects children.
2. “You have to accept pain when you’re older”
Although the body changes as we age, rheumatic conditions are not a natural part of this process. Pain and stiffness also need to be examined in the elderly—regardless of age, it is important not to wait but to get access to the right treatment as quickly as possible.
3. “It’s just some joint pain”
The rheumatic diseases mainly affect joints, muscles and bones. But our organs can also be attacked and many experience a disease-related fatigue once in a while. A rheumatic disease affects the whole body and the person in general, both physically and mentally.
4. “A little rheumatism cannot be that bad”
A rheumatic disease can cause significant pain, reduced mobility and decreased quality of life. Not only the joints but also other organs in the body can be affected with various complications as a result. There is thus no reason not to take rheumatic diagnoses seriously.
5. “Rheumatic diseases cannot be treated”
Rheumatic diseases cannot be cured. However, that doesn't mean they cannot be treated! With the right treatment, the symptoms can be alleviated, the progression of the disease slowed and the quality of life maintained. In addition, new advances are made in medical research all the time, and the treatment options are thus continuously improved.
6. “But it’s not possible for you with rheumatism to …?”
Unfortunately, many people think that a rheumatic diagnosis means the end of an active lifestyle. That doesn't have to be the case at all. Medical treatment in combination with a healthy lifestyle provides good opportunities for a continued active life. Moderate, regular physical activity can even reduce symptoms and improve general well-being for people with rheumatic conditions, as well as for the general population.
Share your experience
How then can one respond to these misconceptions? Awareness and knowledge are the best ways to break down inaccurate beliefs and, by extension, increase empathy and improve the treatment of people with rheumatic diseases.
You can play an important role by sharing your own experiences to inform and create understanding—not only for your own situation but also for others.