The advent of apps has made it easier. With the flash of a thumb or finger, users might be able to tap a graphic to show where the pain is or use a sliding scale to detail how much it hurts. Doctors now can get a much more complete picture of the disease’s effect. People with RA, too, have a better understanding.
“It keeps you present to what’s going on,” Faircloth says. “One of the things I really like is looking back, how many days of the month I felt bad, compared to how many I felt good. I can go back and look at that sometimes and go, ‘Wow, March was a bad month. Twenty-two days out of 30 were not good days.'”
Features vary from app to app. Some have medication reminders, some prompt you for an entry, some have links to educational resources and support groups, and others can connect with fitness devices or your doctor’s office. But all involve you in your own care.
A few years ago, Ashley Newton was struggling with her RA during a hot, humid, walk-heavy trip to Mexico. The app she was using allowed her to add a note to describe what she was going through, which proved critical in her health assessment when she next saw her rheumatologist.
“When I came back to my doctor, we could kind of look at what my trend was over the past 3 months, and I could articulate, ‘Here are the kinds of activities that really caused me these additional problems,'” says Newton, who was diagnosed with RA about 5 years ago. “I really think, because I was tracking and could start to see that pattern emerge … we could make decisions more easily.”
Now, before she travels, Newton may consult with her doctor to consider medications that could help prevent, or at least control, RA flare-ups. She says the app she uses — ArthritisPower, created by the nonprofit group CreakyJoints and the University of Alabama at Birmingham — has made it easier for her to manage her RA symptoms.
“It’s impacted my care already, because it’s giving me something hard and fast. It almost feels like I’m equipping myself with evidence,” she says. “This gives [my doctors] an actual measure to look at and make a decision.”
Faircloth, who uses a couple of apps for her care, also is a big believer in their power.
“With that app, I feel like I have a better grip on my health,” she says.