Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rheumatoid arthritis

I first became aware of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) when a friend of mine told me she was diagnosed with it about 10 years ago. We always hear people say they have arthritis but there are various forms of it.

According WebMD, "rheumatoid arthritis is a type of chronic arthritis that typically occurs in joints on both sides of the body (such as hands, wrists, or knees). This symmetry helps distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from other types of arthritis".

What Causes Rheumatoid Arthritis?

The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it is thought to be due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. With rheumatoid arthritis, something seems to trigger the immune system to attack the joints and sometimes other organs. Some theories suggest that a virus or bacteria may alter the immune system, causing it to attack the joints. Other theories suggest that smoking may lead to the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

Research hasn't completely determined exactly what role genetics plays in rheumatoid arthritis. However, some people do seem to have a genetic or inherited factor that increases their chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is based on a combination of factors, including:

The specific location and symmetry of painful joints, especially the hand joints.

The presence of joint stiffness in the morning.

Presence of bumps and nodules under the skin (rheumatoid nodules).

Results of X-ray tests that suggest rheumatoid arthritis.

Positive results of a blood test called the rheumatoid factor.

Most, but not all, people with rheumatoid arthritis have the rheumatoid-factor antibody in their blood. (Rheumatoid factors are actually antibodies that bind other antibodies.) Rheumatoid factor may sometimes be present in people who do not have rheumatoid arthritis. Other diseases can also cause the rheumatoid factor to be produced in the blood. Therefore, the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is based on a combination of joint abnormalities as well as laboratory information and not just the presence of the rheumatoid factor in the blood.

A newer, more specific blood test for rheumatoid arthritis is the cylic citrulline antibody test, also called anti-CCP. When positive, it is highly suggestive of rheumatoid arthritis. The presence of anti-CCP antibodies implies a tendency toward a more aggressive form of rheumatoid arthritis.

People with rheumatoid arthritis may have a mild anemia. Blood tests may also reveal an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, which are markers of inflammation.

Some people with rheumatoid arthritis may also have a positive antinuclear antibody test (ANA). This test is indicative of the fact that rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and sometimes overlaps with other autoimmune disorders.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Oh wow, how time flies....again. Didn't realise it's been two weeks since my last post here. Yesterday was the last day of Chinese New Year, the 15th day of the first month of the lunar year, Chap Goh Mei. The moon was really round and full last night. Too bad I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the moon. And I'm past the stage where young girls go out at night to the lake, sea, river to throw mandarin oranges wishing for Mr Right! But in fact, I never ever did that before in my life.

Instead, I took Rusty out for his evening walk a.k.a poop time. Usually E does it every night after putting C to bed but last night, Rusty couldn't wait. He must have eaten too much yesterday because I spoiled him -- fed him some CNY junk food while I was snacking on some in the afternoon (he was so happy he got some!), and then gave him some rice with bones from the previous night's 'bak kut teh' dinner mixed with his doggy biscuits. Lucky for him that I broke the no-human-food rule yesterday. Some kids in the neighbourhood were playing with fireworks and later some firecrackers went off somewhere. That made him uncomfortable and unsure of where the usual 'safe' spots were to do his job! Ha ha! Anyway he managed to at a few spots and happily trotted to the safety of home.

This week has been yet another one filled with daily chores, errands etc. Sigh, it never ends, does it? I still haven't gotten used to the routine of having to wake up at 5.30am to prepare C's school lunch even though it's now February. Waking up extra half an hour earlier screws up my circadian rhythm. Yesterday, I decided to wake at the usual time of 6.00am, got their breakfast done and after they left, got down to writing a piece for my fortnightly column. Then I had no choice but to cook lunch, pack it and deliver it to school for C. I packed my portion too as I too had to eat. Decided to lunch with her in her school canteen as there was no point for me travelling back and forth since I had to take her home when school dismissed. So after her lunch break ended at 1.00pm, I hung around in school and chatted with a few other parents until dismissal at 2.35pm. Felt like time was wasted for the sake of saving petrol cost and not increasing the carbon footprint but I guess it made better sense to wait out the 1.5 hours.

She's going back to eating the school-prepared lunch next term. This term is the first time she's bringing lunch from home. She had complained of being bored with the food at school after two years so I relented this time just to try out the arrangement. I feel now that it's not too practical having to prepare some of the food the night before so that I can cook it quickly the next morning plus having to wake up earlier. She's not a sandwich person and I also don't see the benefit of eating sandwiches for lunch everyday, five days a week. And she eats less (due to the limited time for lunch break) if it's sandwiches because she somehow eats slower when it's bread compared to noodles or rice. So her lunch menu has to be varied with rice, noodles, pasta or some mashed potato-topped pie and sometimes a sandwich.

I'm glad it's Friday. C is glad too. Recently, she's quite into this cartoon on TV called Metal Fight Beyblade. And it's on Saturdays and Sundays that she gets to watch it. Every morning this week, she has been counting down to the weekend and this morning, she went 'Yay, tomorrow I can watch Metal Fight Beyblade! What are our plans for the weekend?" Last week, she said she was planning to wake up early to catch the cartoon and she really did. Although the programme was airing at 9.30am she was already up and about at 6.30am while E and I were still in dreamland. On weekdays, we have difficulty waking her at 6.00am to get ready for school but on weekends she can get up on her own! Just goes to show children (and adults) are alike. We're motivated by what we're interested in.

This calls to mind my own level of motivation. I need a boost. But what I'm interested in is relaxing, travelling for holidays and satiating the foodie in me. How that's possible beats me with all that I have on my stay-at-home-mum plate that's filled with lots of duties and responsibilities and very little time and money! Oh well, is the cup half full or half empty?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gong Xi Fa Cai, Happy New Year of the Rabbit

Today is the eve of the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit. Being the last-minute type, we finally washed our cars (E) and gave Rusty a good haircut and bath (me) this morning! Apart from that we didn't do any spring cleaning and parts of the house are cluttered as usual. But, we did put up some Chinese New Year decor although not as elaborate as Christmas. That's because we didn't have very many existing decor items in the first place and I didn't get around to buying new ones! I certainly am not living up to the standards and example my elders, especially my grandparents, set those days when they were around...guilty, guilty....

Our house got a good wash (yes, with buckets and hoses) inside and outside from ceiling to floor those days, everything wiped and dusted and washed. Cushion covers, curtains changed, iron grilles and gates painted at least if not the entire house, exterior and/or interior. Home-made decor of various kinds were cut and made using CNY greeting cards, angpow packets, red paper, cookies and other goodies made or bought and exchanged between relatives, friends and neighbours.  And a big cooking session would start early in the day with all the womenfolk congregating in the kitchen, preparing for the nights reunion dinner. My paternal side of the family was rather large. My grandpa had three wives, which was not uncommon those days, and since he lived with us, everyone would come to our house for the reunion dinner.

These days, families are smaller. Both E and I come from five-member families. His parents and mine similarly have two sons and one daughter. So tonight, we'll be heading to his parents' home to have the traditional reunion dinner with his parents and younger brother's family. Meanwhile, my parents will be having their reunion dinner with my younger brother's family only as my older brother and his family live abroad.

There's a few other differences between CNY then and now but I'll save that for another post maybe. Meanwhile, ACE wish family and friends a happy, hoppity Year of the Rabbit. May good health, wealth and happiness be yours throughout  this year. Gong Xi Fa Cai!