Korin Miller

Your Guide to Understanding Hidradenitis Suppurativa Treatment

Your Guide to Understanding Hidradenitis Suppurativa Treatment

Treating hidradenitis suppurativa can feel like a really overwhelming process. After all, the condition isn’t as well known as many other conditions that impact your skin, and even trying to pronounce the name can be intimidating.Additionally, people with hidradenitis suppurativa are often misdiagnosed for years, according to Cindy Wassef 1, M.D., assistant professor at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. But even with a proper diagnosis, treating hidradenitis suppurativa isn’t straightforward, according to Dr. Wassef. “I do not treat any two hidradenitis suppurativa patients the same,” Dr. Wassef tells SELF. “It really is dependent on your stage of disease, severity, and other factors.”Understanding the condition and the numerous options for treating hidradenitis suppurativa can help you feel more in control of your health. Here’s what you should know.What is hidradenitis suppurativa?Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic skin condition that causes really painful bumps in sensitive areas like your armpits,  groin, under the breasts, and between the buttocks, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association 2 (AAD). “It’s a condition where you have what looks like boils, pustules, or acne in sensitive areas,” Steven Xu 3, M.D., dermatologist and assistant professor in the department of dermatology at Northwestern Medicine Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. What are some common hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms?Hidradenitis suppurativa lesions generally appear in areas where your skin rubs together, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center 4 (GARD). Other symptoms include:Recurring painful bumps that can burst open, releasing blood, pus, and other fluids which may have an odorBlackheads in small pitted areas of your skinScarringSinus tracts, or tunneling that forms underneath your skinThe disease varies, so some people can have mild symptoms and get very few flares while other people have many bumps that occur frequently, Dr. Xu says. The bumps can be really painful and debilitating, making it hard to move or sleep.  Many people often have groin flares and feel self-conscious about managing armpit odor from their hidradenitis suppurativa armpit fluids, which can understandably affect their self esteem and relationships. What causes hidradenitis suppurativa?The exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa is unknown, but experts think hormones, genetics, and environmental factors may be involved, according to GARD. In fact, roughly 30 to 40% of people with hidradenitis suppurativa have at least one family member with the condition.Although no one knows what causes hidradenitis suppurativa, experts believe the condition begins when a hair follicle becomes clogged with keratin (a protein contained in our skin, hair, and nails), according to the AAD 5. Eventually, your hair follicle is filled with more keratin than it can hold and explodes. When that happens, you can develop a deep painful lump filled with pus, and the contents from your hair follicle spreads to nearby hair follicles, causing more lesions to form.There can be a lot of stigma with hidradenitis suppurativa. Some people mistakenly believe the sores are contagious or that the disease is caused by poor hygiene 6. These misconceptions are all untrue and only further contribute to harmful misconceptions about the disease.How do you get a hidradenitis suppurativa diagnosis?Hidradenitis suppurativa can be mistaken for other skin conditions, such as an infected hair follicle, so people may not get diagnosed for up to 12 years after they first develop symptoms, according to a 2015 paper published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings7. Seeing a hidradenitis suppurativa expert if you’re able to can help you get an accurate diagnosis if you think you have the condition. There is no lab or blood test for hidradenitis suppurativa, but a board-certified dermatologist familiar with the condition will know how to screen you, Dr. Xu says.

How My Diabetes Diagnosis Transformed My Relationship With Food for the Better

How My Diabetes Diagnosis Transformed My Relationship With Food for the Better

For a little while I kept trying to eat lighter fast-food options, like choosing grilled chicken over fried chicken, and prepared grocery store meals, but my blood sugar would remain high. I started to worry that it would never stabilize, so I decided to make changes by focusing on the things that I could control.That began with making meals for myself at home. My family is Jamaican, and we love rice, oxtail, and stews. A registered dietitian I met with soon after my diagnosis said I could only have those foods on rare occasions or not at all. The explanation? They’re “unhealthy” because they’re traditionally high in carbs, salt, and saturated fat. It was really discouraging to hear “You can never have this,” rather than being taught how to enjoy them in a different way so I didn’t feel restricted.I wanted to eat more mindfully without completely eliminating the food I love. So I started wearing a blood sugar monitor to measure my glucose levels at all times, which was a total game-changer. This allowed me to see what foods cause my blood sugar to spike quickly or remain high throughout the day.Using this data, I figured out how to modify my go-to dishes. I paid more attention to serving sizes of pasta and rice so I could still enjoy my favorite meals in moderation. I educated myself on the foods that people with type 2 diabetes should generally aim to eat more of, like tons of vegetables. Broccoli, fresh green beans, and brussels sprouts slowly became staples on my plate.Keeping things quick and simple was still really important for me, so I decided to give meal prepping a try and realized it was almost as convenient as getting fast food or takeout. After a trip to the grocery store, I used one day each week to sort, cut, and prepare my food, so I had a week’s worth of meals ready in my fridge. My now husband made the changes with me as well, and our motto was to “eat a rainbow” of colors to make sure we incorporated a variety of nutritious foods into our plan.With that, my attitude around cooking began to shift: I stopped looking at it as a chore and used it as time to relax with my husband. Whipping up meals became more fun as I experimented with different dishes—like pizza. I didn’t want to nix it from my diet completely, so I tried out different kinds of crusts made of cauliflower or even chicken. I used low-fat, part-skim cheeses instead of full-fat cheeses sometimes. I also added more veggies—spinach, artichokes, and tomatoes—to boost the fiber and flavor of my pizzas. I then moved on to family recipes, but the dishes evolved as I searched Pinterest for ideas that both my husband and I could get excited about.When I shared new dishes that I made on Facebook, my friends and family couldn’t get enough. Finally, a friend suggested I start a blog where I could keep track of the things I cooked and easily share links with anyone who was interested. That’s when Hangry Woman was born—and it eventually became my full-time job!Once I started to see the direct results—my blood sugar becoming more stable as I cooked more—I felt confident that I could successfully manage my diabetes. I have more energy, and everything just feels right. Now I know that if I stick to the balanced plan I’ve created for myself, I get the healthy blood sugar reading that I want—and I don’t feel like I have to worry about my body at all, which is so liberating.

7 Questions People With Spinal Inflammation Should Ask Their Doctors About Biologics

7 Questions People With Spinal Inflammation Should Ask Their Doctors About Biologics

Learning about your treatment options is one major aspect of managing a chronic condition that causes spinal inflammation, such as ankylosing spondylitis. It can also be really frustrating since you may need to try several treatments before finding something that helps relieve your symptoms.You might be interested in taking biologics, a type of medication that targets your body’s immune system to lower inflammation. Generally, doctors recommend biologics for ankylosing spondylitis when you’ve already tried non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs and your symptoms haven’t improved, according to Dona Poulose1, M.D. assistant professor of allergy, immunology, and rheumatology at the Baylor College of Medicine.There are numerous types of biologics, and the right medication for you depends on several factors—including what exactly is causing your spinal inflammation. If you are interested in taking biologics, it’s important to understand what your treatment plan may involve, and how it can help you manage your symptoms. Here are some questions about biologics that you might find helpful to ask at your doctor’s appointment.1. Which biologic would you recommend for me and why?After determining that you’re a candidate for biologics, your doctor may suggest a few for you based on several factors, according to ​​Orrin Troum2, M.D. rheumatologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. For many people, insurance coverage is a big determinant. “I may like someone to use a particular medication because others have had good experiences with it, but if their insurance coverage is going to make it difficult, we’ll try something else,” Dr. Troum tells SELF. (If you don’t have health insurance or if your insurance doesn’t cover biologics, then you can contact the drug manufacturer to ask about patient assistance programs that can help cover some of the medication cost.)Your doctor will also factor in if you have any comorbidities or allergies when selecting your biologic, Dr. Poulose says. (Some medications may work better or be safer in people with certain other health conditions3.)2. What are the side effects of taking this biologic?You want to have a clear understanding of the possible risks that come with taking medications, so it’s worth asking about side effects if your doctor doesn’t bring them up.Biologics are administered either through an intravenous infusion or injected under the skin, so you may experience pain and swelling around the injection site, according to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center4. Reactions around the biologic injection site are the most common side effect, however, you may also develop infections more easily when using these medications.There’s no way of knowing how you might react to a medication. But if you’re worried about side effects, you can ask your doctor questions that can give you some perspective such as:How can side effects affect my daily life?What can we do if my side effects are worrisome?What are the most common side effects you see in other patients?3. Will I need any additional treatments?You might assume that taking a biologic is the only treatment that you’ll need, but that’s not always the case. For example, some people with ankylosing spondylitis may find that physical therapy can be a really helpful addition to their medication, according to Dr. Poulose. “Physical therapy is vital to preserve mobility and help prevent stiffness,” Dr. Poulose tells SELF. In physical therapy, you might walk, stretch, and even try new sleep positions that help preserve your posture. Depending on your particular condition and symptoms, your doctor may also prescribe additional pain medications such as corticosteroid injections, Dr. Troum says.4. What kind of progress can I expect?This is hard to predict, but it’s still a good question to ask. “Not every patient responds the same to every medication,” Dr. Poulose says.

Is Psoriasis Contagious?

Is Psoriasis Contagious?

Guttate psoriasis is more common in young adults and children. It can happen after you get an infection like strep throat and produce lesions that look like small drops on your abdomen, arms, or legs.Inverse psoriasis primarily affects the groin, butt, and breast areas. The patches are smooth and tend to get worse when you sweat a lot or experience a lot of friction.Pustular psoriasis is rare and causes sores that are filled with pus. You may get them in your palms or the soles of your feet.Erythrodermic psoriasis is uncommon and causes a peeling, burning rash that can appear on your entire body.You may read articles or hear other people discuss psoriatic arthritis in conjunction with psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis is another autoimmune condition that causes painful, swollen joints. Having psoriasis increases your risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, so it’s important to let your doctor know of any joint symptoms you develop, according to the Cleveland Clinic.What causes psoriasis?Experts aren’t clear why some people develop psoriasis, according to the Mayo Clinic1.Researchers have some theories, though, and it involves a combination of genetics and environmental factors9. “Certain inherited genes have been found to increase the likelihood that an individual will develop psoriasis,” Dr. Agbai says. “People with this genetic predisposition to develop psoriasis can develop psoriasis plaques after exposure to environmental triggers such as infection or certain medications,” Dr Agbai says. Sometimes, there’s no clear event, like having an infection, that triggers psoriasis. “In those individuals, genetic predisposition is thought to be the primary cause,” Dr. Agbai saysWhat are psoriasis triggers?It’s important to understand your specific psoriasis triggers, Dr. Wassef says. “Despite a great treatment plan, if you are still getting exposed to your psoriasis triggers, you will still flare,” she says. “Finding and eliminating your triggers can help decrease the amount of medicine you use and limit the number of flares you have.”You may need to do some detective work to figure out your triggers, but keeping a journal that documents your symptoms, the timing of your flare, the weather conditions, your diet, and stress levels may help you pinpoint specific triggers if you have any. “Not everybody with psoriasis can link their flares to certain triggers,” Dr. Agbai says. “In those individuals, genetic predisposition is thought to be the primary cause,” Dr. Agbai says.Psoriasis triggers include1:Living in cold, dry climatesHaving skin injuries, like a cut, scrape, or sunburnExperiencing stressSmoking or chronically being exposed to secondhand smokeSuddenly discontinuing an oral or systemic corticosteroidsCan psoriasis spread?Even though it may look similar to skin infections that spread through skin-to-skin contact, psoriasis is not contagious. “Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease and is in no way contagious because it is not related to any infection,” Susan Massick9, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, tells SELF.“No one will get psoriasis by touching it or a person with psoriasis,” Dr. Wassef says. “It is one of the biggest misconceptions and a lot of stigma related to psoriasis has to do with this false belief,” she says.Of course, there are other causes of bumps and rashes that you could develop on your skin that can be contagious. While doctors stress the importance of getting a proper diagnosis when you’re dealing with unusual bumps or rashes, there can be some signs that you have psoriasis over something else.“Psoriasis is often confused for fungal skin infections,” Dr. Wassef says. Psoriasis patches tend to be either pink, dark brown, purple, or gray in color and have raised rashes with scales, she explains. Fungal rashes can also appear in the same colors and be raised but the edges of the rash spread out, Dr. Wassef says. The center of fungal rash such as ringworm10 usually appears normal and isn’t discolored. “This clearing in the center is not seen in psoriasis,” Dr. Wassef says.

9 Surprising Reasons Why You're Feeling Nauseous

9 Surprising Reasons Why You're Feeling Nauseous

On the flip side, it’s possible to feel nauseous because you suddenly ate a large amount of food. If you think this is why you’re feeling nauseous, you can try home remedies like over-the-counter stomach upset medications5. 3. You might need to drink some water.Feeling nauseous might just be your unsettled stomach telling you to serve yourself some more H20. And we’re not talking about day-in-the-desert-without-water dehydrated. For some people, even mild dehydration could cause stomach trouble, Dr. Wexler says.You’ll probably know if dehydration is causing your nausea if you also feel, well, really thirsty. So if that’s the case, drink up. Usually, plain water is fine, says Dr. Wexler. But if you have signs of severe dehydration—like fatigue, dizziness, or confusion—seek medical attention right away. Also worth noting: The dehydration and low blood sugar that can come along with hangovers may cause nausea too. 4. It might be your medications.Plenty of medications—even supplements and over-the-counter meds—can leave you feeling nauseous. Sometimes, popping an over-the-counter pain reliever (like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or an NSAID) on an empty stomach can actually cause you to feel nauseous. Without some food in your belly to act as a buffer, the components of some pills can be irritating to the lining of the stomach, Dr. Wexler says. Supplements like vitamins C, E, and iron can have a similar effect.If it’s been more than an hour or two since your last meal, you can keep discomfort at bay by eating something small. “Often, just a piece of bread or a few crackers will suffice,” Dr. Wexler says. Just be sure to have your snack before you take your vitamins or meds, so it can coat your stomach. Eating afterward won’t usually help, says Dr. Wexler.5. It might be a migraine.As if migraines weren’t bad enough, they can also cause some people to feel nauseous. Experts don’t fully understand why a migraine can leave you feeling like you have to hurl. What they do know? Migraines can cause dizziness and blurry vision, which can make you nauseous.If you feel a migraine coming on, taking an OTC pain reliever might help, says Dr. Arthur. (Just be sure to have it with a small snack like crackers. And drink plenty of water, since dehydration can make headaches and nausea worse.) And if OTC pain meds don’t work, talk with your doctor. They can prescribe prescription migraine meds that may be more helpful.6. It could be a stomach bug.Fingers crossed this isn’t the case, but it’s worth discussing as a potential cause behind feeling nauseous. There are two main health issues that are important to know here: food poisoning and stomach flu. Food poisoning happens when your GI tract gets irritated or infected due to contaminated food or drinks6. The stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, specifically happens when a virus infects your GI system7. Either way, nausea is a common symptom of both of these issues, along with other signs of upset like diarrhea and abdominal cramping.7. It might be an ear infection.This one might be surprising, but if you feel pressure in your ear along with nausea, it could be an ear infection. Good news: That’s totally treatable. The canals in your inner ears play an important role in helping you maintain your balance. But an infection can cause changes to the normal fluid levels in one ear, Dr. Arthur says. When that happens, your brain gets a signal that the pressure in your infected ear is different than the pressure in your healthy ear. And those mixed signals can leave you feeling nauseous and dizzy.

Is It Normal to Have Blood in Your Poop?

Is It Normal to Have Blood in Your Poop?

In case you’re not familiar with it, Crohn’s disease is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and irritation in your digestive tract, usually in your small intestine and the beginning of your large intestine, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)10. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes irritation or swelling and sores called ulcers on the inner lining of your large intestine, the NIDDK11 says.8. Blood in your poop could be a sign of colorectal cancer.Bright red rectal bleeding can sometimes be due to colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society12. Colorectal cancer is tough to pin down—it may not cause symptoms right away, the American Cancer Society says, and when it does, rectal bleeding can show up alone or with other issues. You might also experience things like diarrhea, constipation, a persistent urge to poop, a change in your stool shape or size (i.e., they become pencil-thin), abdominal pain, weakness and fatigue, and unintended weight loss. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include a personal or family history of colorectal polyps, a personal or family history of irritable bowel disease like Crohn’s colitis or ulcerative colitis, being Black, and being above 45, according to the American Cancer Society13. (However, colorectal cancer rates are significantly on the rise in people younger than this.) Back to top.What to do when you’re pooping bloodNot to sound like a broken record here, but the whole “Call your doctor” advice comes up a lot with this kind of stuff for a reason. Still, sometimes you can try out a few things on your own. Of course, the advice is a little different depending on what you might be dealing with.If it’s hemorrhoids:First things first: If you see blood in your poop and are over 45, Black, or have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should see a doctor to rule out other causes before deciding you must just have hemorrhoids. However, if you do actually have hemorrhoids, they usually clear up on their own. Still, they can stick around and cause persistent bleeding, Dr. Farhadi says. If hemorrhoids are indeed your issue, Dr. Farhadi recommends eating high-fiber foods to try to soften up your waste so pooping won’t require Herculean effort. (Be sure to also drink enough water, since the fiber soaks it up to help make poop softer and easier to pass.)If it’s an anal fissure:Christine Lee, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, likens anal fissures to having a paper cut on your butt. Yowza. Luckily, they usually get better on their own, though you can ask a doctor which anesthetic-containing cream they recommend to dull the pain in the meantime. It can also help to take a sitz bath and increase your fiber intake (so that your future poops are a little more manageable), according to the Mayo Clinic14.If it’s a polyp in your colon:Most of these polyps are harmless, but a small portion of them can develop into colon cancer over time. Doctors treat colon polyps by removing them endoscopically (using a flexible camera with a light, also called an endoscope), then making sure they’re not cancerous, says the NIDDK.If it’s diverticulosis:Diverticular bleeding sometimes stops on its own. If that’s not the case for you, your doctor may do a colonoscopy to figure out where the bleeding is happening so they can put an end to it.If it’s E. coli:The good news: Healthy adults usually recover from E. coli in about a week, the Mayo Clinic9 says. In general, resting and drinking plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration is the main thing to do. The bad news: E. coli that causes bloody diarrhea can make people sick enough to wind up in the hospital. At the hospital, you can receive supportive care, like IV fluids, blood transfusions, and kidney dialysis if necessary.Even if your E. coli is tame enough that you can recover at home, don’t take anti-diarrheal medication,  the Mayo Clinic warns. It slows down your digestive system and prevents your body from getting rid of the toxins.If you have a peptic ulcer:Doctors may prescribe drugs to neutralize irritating stomach acid or medications to help protect the tissues that line your stomach and small intestine, the Mayo Clinic2 says. In the event that your peptic ulcer is bleeding, you will need a procedure known as an upper endoscopy so a gastroenterologist can treat the bleed and stop it from bleeding again. If your doctor suspects Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis:IBD treatment courses vary from person to person, but they can involve taking anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids to tame inflammation, immunosuppressants to stop your immune system from attacking your digestive tract, and medicine to combat symptoms like diarrhea and constipation, according to the Mayo Clinic14. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if other treatments haven’t helped as much as they should. Keep in mind that your treatment options may change over time based on new research and newly available therapies. Make sure you have ongoing conversations with your doctor about which treatment options may be best for you.If you’re concerned it might be colorectal cancer:Seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if you have any of the aforementioned risk factors.  

The 6 Most Common Causes of False Positive Pregnancy Tests

The 6 Most Common Causes of False Positive Pregnancy Tests

No matter what, taking a pregnancy test can be an emotional roller coaster. When it comes to getting a false positive pregnancy test result, the experience can be deeply upsetting, particularly for anyone who has had a difficult time getting pregnant or is actively hoping to get pregnant (or both). The hope that comes with seeing that positive sign crashing down as you realize it was a false positive pregnancy test? It’s a uniquely devastating emotion. Of course, getting a false positive pregnancy test when you’re actively trying not to get pregnant can be just as horrible. Yup, you could probably do without the panicked verification trip to the ob-gyn, just to learn there was nothing to stress over. Thankfully, experts note that false positive pregnancy tests are rare. Unfortunately, though, they can happen. Here are some of the most common causes of a false positive pregnancy test, along with some additional information that can help you put it all into context.First, what is a pregnancy test?Let’s start with the absolute basics just to make sure we’re all on the same page. A pregnancy test tells you if you’re pregnant or not. That’s simple enough to understand. But it’s understandable if you’re a little fuzzy on the details of what these devices actually look for to identify a pregnancy.At-home pregnancy tests check for the hormone hCG. HCG is short for human chorionic gonadotropin, which the body creates during pregnancy. Right after a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining, the placenta then forms and starts producing hCG1. A blood test can detect hCG about nine days after conception, and a urine test can detect it 12 to 14 days after conception, according to the Cleveland Clinic, although it varies—some especially sensitive urine tests can detect a pregnancy even earlier. A person’s hCG level typically doubles every 72 hours through 8 to 11 weeks of pregnancy. Then it remains consistent and starts to go down after delivery.Back to top.How does a pregnancy test work?An at-home pregnancy test is designed to find hCG in pee2. If the hormone is present, it triggers a chemical reaction and the test signals that you’re pregnant. If hCG is not present, the test will say you aren’t pregnant. Many tests use two lines to mean you’re pregnant and one line to mean you’re not—but it depends on the test brand. Some tests use plus and minus signs. Some digital pregnancy tests have a screen that plainly reads “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” Which can save you some “is that one line or two?!” squinting, at least.Seems simple, right? As Ina Garten would say, “How easy is that?” Typically, pretty easy. Most at-home pregnancy tests claim to be about 99 percent accurate3. Ultrasounds typically can’t detect a pregnancy until a little later in your pregnancy and that’s why at-home tests are so useful. But, sometimes, other elements can mess with a pregnancy test’s results and tell you you’re pregnant when you’re really not. Back to top.What can cause a false positive pregnancy test?Here are the most likely reasons you may end up with a false positive pregnancy test:1. You let the test sit too long before looking.If you take a standard pregnancy test with line indicators, it’s important to check the results according to the specific instruction of the test. If you let it sit too long before reading the results, urine on the test can evaporate and make it look like you have two lines instead of just one. “Oftentimes people will see evaporation lines as urine starts to evaporate off the test,” Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., board-certified ob-gyn, tells SELF. That might cause the test to look like it has a faint second line—making it positive—but it really only has one.The best way to avoid this: Read the pregnancy test’s directions and follow them exactly. The popular pregnancy test brand First Response, for example, instructs users to wait three minutes after taking the test, then read it as soon as possible4.2. The pregnancy test is expired.The second most common reason Dr. Abdur-Rahman’s patients get false positives is because the test is expired, he says. When a test is past its expiration date, the chemical that detects hCG doesn’t always work as it should, and you’re more likely to get a misread. “The test can expire and the chance of having a false positive increases,” Dr. Abdur-Rahman says.3. You’re on fertility medications that raise hCG levels.If you take a pregnancy test too soon after taking a fertility drug that contains hCG—like some injections that are often part of in vitro fertilization—you could get a false positive.

4 People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Share the Products That Make Everyday Life More Comfortable

4 People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Share the Products That Make Everyday Life More Comfortable

When you have rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that causes swollen and painful joints, doing common tasks can feel nearly impossible at times. The right rheumatoid arthritis products can help you deal with challenging activities and help alleviate your pain. “If inflammation affects joints in the hands and fingers, it can be difficult to perform daily tasks such as putting on clothes or removing rings from fingers,” Naomi Schlesinger, M.D., chief of the Division of Rheumatology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, tells SELF. “When you live with rheumatoid arthritis, chores like getting dressed, showering, opening doors, cooking, eating, and cleaning can become much more challenging obstacles,” Dr. Schlesinger says.Figuring out which rheumatoid arthritis products may be helpful can take some trial and error. We asked people with rheumatoid arthritis for the tools they use to get through painful days in hopes that their suggestions will work for you too.1. Ergonomic pens that are easy to grip when your fingers are swollenShelley F., 51, started volunteering with arthritis advocacy group CreakyJoints after her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in 2012. She says even jotting down a quick note can be burdensome when it’s “hard to grasp and hold onto things,” including pencils and pens. “Writing legibly is a challenge for me some days when my fingers are swollen and painful,” she tells SELF. Shelley uses the Pen Again pens ($8, Amazon) because they have an ergonomic design and are comfortable to grip. “They are easy to write with,” she says.2. Compression wraps or sleeves to reduce joint strain during the dayPersonal trainer Ashley N., 37, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010, says the condition predominantly affects her hands and wrists. “The pain is always there,” she tells SELF. To ease pressure on her joints while lifting weights or cooking, Ashley uses devices that offer wrist support via compression. “They give me enough relief to be able to complete normal tasks without discomfort,” she tells SELF. The McDavid Wrist Compression Brace ($12, Amazon) is one well-reviewed option.When Yaideliz A., 24, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2018, she looked for ways to feel more comfortable while typing at work. She found that using the CompressionZ Compression Arm Sleeve ($20, Amazon) helped reduce swelling and inflammation in her arms and wrists so she could work with less pain. “These give me extra support,” she tells SELF.There’s some evidence that compression gloves may reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain and joint stiffness, according to a 2014 review of studies published in the journal Therapeutic Advances of Musculoskeletal Disease. However, the mechanism for this isn’t clear, and you will likely need to wear compression gear consistently to feel any results, and there’s no evidence that wearing compression gloves or sleeves will improve your overall hand function. If you’re interested in buying compression gear, then you may want to ask your doctor for suggestions about which products might work for you.3. A comfortable night splint that keeps your joints straightRheumatoid arthritis symptoms can be worse in the morning because your joints may stiffen up overnight. The discomfort from this can make getting out of bed almost unbearable. Shelley says wearing the 3 Point Products Comforter Splints ($87, Amazon) at night helps make her mornings easier. “Sometimes my fingers curl up when I’m sleeping, then stiffen, so that I need to pry them open when I wake up,” she says. Using the splints keep her fingers straight and prevents this from happening, Shelley explains.4. An electric jar opener to avoid overworking your wristsFor Ashley, activities that involve twisting motions are especially difficult. To open her favorite jars of sauces or foods, Ashley relies on her electric jar opener. “I’ve had it for 17 years and it still works like a charm,” she says. “You place the jar in the machine, adjust to fit, press the button and it opens the jar for you.” Ashley uses a Black & Decker model that’s no longer made, but this Besmon Electric Jar Opener is readily available ($25, Amazon).5. Shoes that offer enough support for walking or standingShelley says that walking outside is her main form of exercise, but that her foot pain makes that difficult some days. She has tried various types of shoes but says the Vionic Brisk Miles Walking Shoes ($100, Amazon) and Asics Gel-Quickwalk 3 ($57, Amazon) allow her to stay active and stand at work more comfortably. Although there is no single type of shoe that can help everyone’s foot pain, Shelley says these two are good rheumatoid arthritis products because “both have really good arch support and that helps me take long walks and even hike on a trail where there is no pavement.”6. Voltaren gel to help with your joint symptomsTien S., 51, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010, says the pain in her wrist, feet, toes, and knees make it difficult to place her feet on the floor or hold a phone. During periods of bad flares, Tien rubs Voltaren gel onto her joints to get some relief. The over-the-counter topical product contains diclofenac sodium, which helps reduce arthritis pain, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. (You may not feel instant relief because Voltaren gel can take up to seven days to provide any effects, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.) This gel is available without a prescription, but if you can, it’s a good idea to talk to your physician before starting new medications. This way you can discuss how the product fits into your treatment plan and if it could interact with any other medications you take.Related:

The Real Connection Between Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

The Real Connection Between Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis do share one common symptom: fatigue, which is likely due to high levels of inflammation, according to NYU Langone Health.The majority of people with psoriasis won’t develop psoriatic arthritis.About 7 million Americans have psoriasis, and only a fraction of them will ever develop psoriatic arthritis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Estimates vary depending on the source, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that roughly 10% to 20% of people with psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis.In contrast, the Cleveland Clinic estimates that up to 30% of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. That said, “having psoriasis is the single most significant risk factor for developing psoriatic arthritis,” Naomi Schlesinger, M.D., chief of the Division of Rheumatology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, tells SELF.If you have psoriasis, it’s extremely important to watch for any joint symptoms, such as swelling, pain, or stiffness—the most common signs of psoriatic arthritis—and report them to your physician, says David Giangreco, M.D., a rheumatologist at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital. Psoriatic arthritis is a progressive disease, meaning it can get worse over time. And if you happen to get diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in its early stages, then your doctor can prescribe treatments that slow the disease’s progression and help preserve your joints.You can develop psoriatic arthritis anytime before or after your psoriasis diagnosis.Medical experts used to believe that people with psoriasis could only develop psoriatic arthritis within 10 years of their initial psoriasis diagnosis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, studies have shown that this isn’t true. In fact, up to 15% of people with both diseases actually experienced their psoriatic arthritis symptoms first, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Some people may develop psoriatic arthritis before psoriasis, and others may have had psoriasis for years without realizing it, according to Dr. Giangreco. “Psoriasis can remain hidden from patients on the back of the scalp or buttock area and go unnoticed for long periods of time,” Dr. Giangreco tells SELF. If you have psoriatic arthritis and suddenly notice changes in your skin and nails, then you don’t want to rule out the possibility of psoriasis. Rarely do people have psoriatic arthritis without getting psoriasis, too, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.Experts aren’t sure why psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are linked.Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are clearly connected, but experts don’t know why some people develop both conditions. However, genetics appears to be involved. Researchers have pinpointed a family of genes called the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex as a possible contributor to psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. (The HLA complex helps your immune system recognize your body’s proteins compared to proteins from foreign pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, the organization explains.) People with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis have HLA genes that are different from people who don’t have either condition, according to a May 2021 paper published in The Journal of Rheumatology. And people with psoriasis who have a specific HLA gene mutation are more likely to develop psoriatic arthritis, according to the same paper.Medical experts also believe that psoriatic arthritis may be inherited. About 40% of people with psoriatic arthritis have a family member with either psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can severely affect your quality of life.People with either condition frequently say that their health informs their decision-making, from the clothes they buy to their careers. That’s because both conditions can drastically change your life, making it difficult to sleep, work, and do the things you love, like playing with your children or baking. For example, when you have a psoriasis flare, even rolling over in bed or wearing tight clothing can be extremely painful. Some people with psoriasis choose clothing that hides their flares to avoid getting comments about their skin’s appearance. Similarly, joint pain from psoriatic arthritis can make it really hard to sit on the floor with your kids, get out of bed for work, or follow through on plans. This can all become overwhelming, and understandably make some people feel self-conscious about their health conditions.Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis treatments can make it easier to live a full life with these conditions.There are no cures for either disease, but an effective treatment plan can minimize symptoms for both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. With psoriasis, doctors generally prescribe treatments that prevent your skin cells from growing too quickly, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are many treatment options for this, including creams, light therapy, or oral or injected medications, the Mayo Clinic explains.As for psoriatic arthritis, treatments generally focus on controlling inflammation to minimize your joint pain and damage. Your doctor might suggest pharmacological options that target your immune system to lower inflammation, along with exercise or other lifestyle modifications, according to the Mayo Clinic. With each condition, the best treatment depends on your particular situation.Bottom line: Talk to your doctor if you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis symptoms.Both conditions can cause a lot of physical and emotional pain—but you can find some relief with the right treatment plan. If you think you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis (or both), talk to your doctor about how you can live more comfortably.Related:

4 People With Ulcerative Colitis Share Their Remission Stories

4 People With Ulcerative Colitis Share Their Remission Stories

For the first few years following her remission, Starshak says she tried to make up for missed experiences by saying yes to every opportunity. Even seemingly ordinary things felt really significant to her, like “being able to crash on a friend’s couch and not worrying about taking up their bathroom,” she says.Starshak has frequent follow-ups to maintain her ulcerative colitis remission. “My last two scopes have shown some increasing inflammation, even though I’m not experiencing symptoms,” she says. “My medical team has been great in staying ahead of things, upping my treatment before I had a flare. Even in remission, we can never stop treating the disease.” —Megan Starshak3. “Now, I can go about my day normally without many preparations.”Rosanne Mottola, 36, dealt with excruciating pain when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis while in college in 2006. “I was living with debilitating gut pain and having urgent and severe bowel movements 20 times a day,” she tells SELF. “Most of the time there was blood present.”Mottola was officially diagnosed with ulcerative colitis a few months before she graduated from college. “I had to arrange for several of my finals to be given virtually since I couldn’t sit in a classroom for an hour to take my exams,” she says. “In addition to the gut symptoms, I was exhausted and anxious.”Mottola learned to manage her condition by taking extreme measures to try to avoid symptoms when she needed to be away from a bathroom. “Anytime I had to go anywhere, I would wake up hours before I had to leave just to ‘settle my stomach,’” she says. “Often, prior to an event—such as my wedding—I would load up on Imodium A-D to prevent having to go to the bathroom.”In 2010, Mottola’s doctors discussed the possibility of a total colectomy, a surgical procedure to remove her colon. “As a last-ditch effort, my doctor tried a new mix of medications,” she says. “That mix did the trick in greatly reducing my symptoms prior to my wedding in 2011.” In 2014, she achieved full remission and it ended up lasting. “Remission is life-changing. Now, I can go about my day normally without many preparations. If I have to hop in the car unexpectedly or if I get stuck in traffic, there isn’t the panic that I felt in the past,” she says.Mottola now volunteers for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and urges other ulcerative colitis patients to advocate for themselves. “When I was first diagnosed and was sharing my symptoms with my doctor, he told me that I had a mild case and I just had to learn how to live with it. Shortly thereafter, I had one of the worst flares of my life,” she says. “That doctor wasn’t cutting it, and I found a new doctor who told me we’d try everything to give me a quality of life that was worth living.” Because of her experience, Mottola says, “I always tell IBD newbies to never, ever settle. If there’s something that doesn’t feel right, you need to speak up.” —Rosanne Mottola4. “I remembered what it was to have a life again.”Mary Elizabeth Ulliman, 33, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2011 and says she was fatigued and made constant trips to the bathroom. But in 2015, Ulliman started taking two new medications that greatly improved her symptoms.“After a few months, I started noticing differences,” she tells SELF. “By 2016 my quality of life had done a complete 180 from where I’d been since 2011,” she says. “In the thick of my ulcerative colitis journey, I genuinely forgot how much fun life could be. I was slogging through, day after day, thinking that feeling miserable was how it was going to be forever, willing myself to make it through work days so I wouldn’t lose my job and insurance.”Remission, she says, allowed her to live fully again. “Suddenly, life wasn’t made up of sleeping, bathroom trips, forcing myself to eat, and willing myself to not fall asleep at my desk at work,” she says. “I had some extra energy. I started—hesitant, at first—to exercise. I could eat food without immediately regretting it afterward. I could have a glass of wine now and again. I had the wherewithal to do activities after work—coaching, going to a happy hour, taking my dog to play. I remembered what it was to have a life again.”Ulliman wants other ulcerative colitis patients to have hope. “When you’re in the black hole that is trying to find something—anything that will work to control your [ulcerative colitis]—it can be easy to forget how much fun and joy life can bring you,” she says.” —Mary Elizabeth UllimanRelated:

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