Coping With Chronic Rheumatic Diseases…The 4 Fs

Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Editor: Catherine B. Driver, MD

Having a temporary condition that is destined to resolve is one thing. A chronic illness, however, has a completely different impact on the lives of patients and their family members. Chronic means that the patient's health is affected by the illness, either intermittently or daily, over an extended and often indefinite period of time. (A chronic illness by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics is one that lasts three months or more.)

Although I write as an expert in rheumatic diseases (I am a rheumatologist), the topic of coping with chronic illness is applicable to people and family members who must regularly confront the impact of health problems from any illness.

Many rheumatic diseases, which are illnesses that involve the muscles and joints, are chronic in nature. For example, rheumatoid arthritis typically presents a daily challenge to those afflicted. Some days are better than others, but the morning activities are frequently affected by stiffness and pain in the joints. Breakfast often includes a sprinkling of medications. Simple preparations for the day, such as dressing, can sometimes require the assistance of a spouse. Even efforts to get places, which for most people are straightforward, can present a logistical nightmare.

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