IT'S IN MY BLOOD
Before I was diagnosed, I had no idea what was going on with me. I had weird crunchy feelings in my fingers and tightness in my toes. Once I learned I had RA, I was able to connect the dots on my family medical history and see how it's not a coincidence that I have what I have. My dad's side of the family is unfortunately full of lovely, strong, beautiful women with auto-immune issues galore and on my mom's side there is one case of RA. Combine the two and suddenly there's reason to why my immune system was pretty much bound to attack me at some point.
All the conditions below are considered auto-immune and are found in females on both sides of my family. Unfortunately, having one auto-immune disorder can lead to having multiple. Right now, I’m grateful to only have one, as some of my cousins are truly beacons of strength for all they endure on a daily basis. This info is so important to share with your doctor. I get blood tests annually for Celiac disease and thyroid issues just to make sure and my rheumatologist is often asking me about symptoms that could be signs of Lupus or Reynaud's.
Grandmother b. 1920
Guillian Barre at 65 years old; Grave’s disease.
Female Cousin b. 1966
Dermatomyositis 2007; Celiac’s disease 2009; Grave's disease 2010; Reynaud’s disease.
Female Cousin b. 1977
Type I diabetes; Celiac’s disease; Grave's disease.
Great Aunt b. 1941
Rheumatoid arthritis; thyroid removed.
Me b. 1986
Rheumatoid arthritis at 25.
BLOOD WORK SAYS A LOT
BUT NOT IT ALL.
There are three blood tests that usually diagnose RA, but they don't always all come back positive. These tests in combination with symptoms lead to a diagnosis.
- Rheumatoid Factor: Measures the amount of rheumatoid factor in your blood. Rheumatoid factors are proteins produced by your immune system that can attack healthy tissue in your body. The results come back as negative (<20) or higher. I've been told there is no end cap to the high end of this test.
- Anti-CCP (Anti-Cyclic Citrullinated Peptide Antibody): Measures proteins that may have changed to citrulline as part of the process that leads to inflammation of the rheumatoid joint. The results come back as negative (<20), weak positive (20-39), moderate positive (40-59), or strong positive (>59).
- ANA (Antinuclear Antibodies) Inflammatory Test: Measures antibodies that target normal antibodies within the blood. Sometimes these ANAs get confused and attack our own body instead. Just because this test comes back positive, does not mean there is an auto-immune disease present.
I like to keep a running list of where my test results fall so I can track the progression of the RA overtime. So far, I've only taken these tests for my original diagnosis and again two years later. It's not something my rheumatologist usually checks when we do bi-yearly blood work, but when I ask, I receive!
April 2012 : Original diagnosis
- Rheumatoid Factor: 72
- Anti-CCP: 42 (moderate positive)
- ANA Inflammatory Markers: Negative
July 2014 : 2.5 years post diagnosis
- Rheumatoid Factor: <20 (negative!)
- Anti-CCP: 33 (weak positive)
- ANA Inflammatory Markers: not checked