Seronegative RA

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Rheumatoid Arthritis: What is Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Written by Serena R. Schad


People have heard the term seronegative rheumatoid arthritis many times before, but what exactly does it mean? What does this mean for your individual prognosis? Simply put: the patient will always test negative for the rheumatoid factor during routine blood tests given to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis. The rheumatoid factor is an immunoglobulin antibody that is found in the blood of nearly 70% of people with rheumatoid arthritis, and is an extremely common diagnostic tool for diagnosing the disease.

I found this article interesting to research and write, because I myself am a seronegative rheumatoid arthritis gal!  My joints were extremely painful, swollen, red and stiff, but I was told countless times as a child, that my pain was a direct result of “growing pains”. My family and I at the time didn’t know any better; we trusted my doctor and tried to cope with the pain.

As an adult, I look back and still feel I was robbed of many childhood activities. I was never able to join the girls basketball team like my other friends were doing. I never once was able to participate in physical education class during school. I was always the young child sitting out on the side, watching my classmates run around with exuberance and smiles on their faces.

Seronegative rheumatoid arthritis can be very troublesome to those trying to figure out exactly what is going on with their body. Doctors often misdiagnose these patients, and they end up going several years without treatment. As with seropositive rheumatoid arthritis, (patients testing positive for the rheumatoid factor), early diagnoses and treatment is vital to the patient. Permanent damage may occur without proper medical care.

The physical symptoms in both types of rheumatoid arthritis are identical, except those with seronegative RA rarely have rheumatoid nodules under their skin. I found it extremely interesting to learn that most seronegative patients are male, and this particular type of RA almost always occurs in juveniles. Coincidentally, in the 12 years that I have had rheumatoid arthritis, I have never once had an RA nodule, and my arthritis symptoms began at the young age of 13. Studies have also shown that those with seronegative RA have far less joint damage and erosion than those with seropositive RA and they also tend to respond to treatment much faster such as biologics and DMARDs.

Is it a blessing to have seronegative rheumatoid arthritis instead of seropositive RA? Some would say it is, and I would have to agree with them. Although I did go through many frustrating years of knowing that doctors didn’t believe what I was telling them, I am appreciative now that I am dealing with a type of rheumatoid arthritis that progresses much slower, and a type of arthritis that allows my body to react quickly to any treatment given. The degree of pain and swelling that I have daily, is no where near the pain seropositive patients have. The erosion to my joints could be a lot worse considering I have had this disease for 12 years. I am thankful that I am able to maintain joint function and mobility maybe longer than others with rheumatoid arthritis. For that, I will count my blessings each and every day.

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