Unfortunately, I had to neglect my blogs for some considerable time due to disease and pressure from my businesses. This has been very frustrating for me but I really had no choice, my work pays the bills and I had reached the point where I was working twelve to fourteen hours every day, including weekends.
Due to the additional stress from work I strayed from my diet and became very ill. I had huge problems with my knees and this triggered inflammation in many other joints too.
Unfortunately I had to keep working on-site and away from my office and home, so I began to eat and drink things which I knew would cause problems, but at the same time I needed the energy and often the caffeine too :-)
Eventually I reached the point where I needed to have cortisone injections in my knees again, in order to continue working. I kept saying to myself, I will just get on top of things then go back to my diet and recover but new problems kept getting in the way.
The Original Cause of my Rheumatoid Arthritis – Discovered in Turkey!
As it happens, I recently went to Turkey to be with my mother-in-law (actually anneciğim in Turkish) because she was about to have a major operation. Unfortunately I was still ill myself and I became worse on the journey due to the flights, airports, taxis and such.
The first few days there I was very ill and had to go to hospital for treatment. While waiting for mum’s exact operation date to be confirmed, I also saw several other doctors myself regarding my RA (mostly friends of the family). This is where it got interesting!
I will write in more detail about my visit and the things I discovered there later, but in a nutshell; I discovered one of the original causes (possibly the only/main cause) of my rheumatoid arthritis :-)
The Turkish medical system is very flexible and responsive, and tests results & X-rays can be obtained almost immediately. As a result I was able to accumulate useful test results, scans and expert opinions in a very short timescale – just a few hours.
It was soon explained to me that I had a long standing blood infection that required urgent treatment; systemic inflammatory response syndrome – a kind of sepsis which can be fatal. My doctors there were amazed that I was still alive and equally amazed that I had managed to fly to Turkey in such a condition. They arranged for me to be admitted to hospital for treatment and monitoring and I started taking oral antibiotics soon after an initial intravenous injection.
After discussing the history of my symptoms and studying my many new test results they concluded that I had probably had this infection to some degree for at least the last twenty-five years, but that it was currently life threatening. If I had not gone to Turkey, I would perhaps never have realised the serious state of my disease and would have continued to believe that my symptoms were just a flare-up of my existing RA – and possibly died.
My RA Caused by Tooth Infection Missed by Doctors and Dentists
I was immediately given powerful antibiotics and then referred to a dental surgeon in a local specialist hospital (another family friend) as my doctors suspected a long standing tooth abscess was the original source of the infection. In our discussions, I explained that I had had a problem tooth for about thirty years and that it often caused pain, bad breath and various other symptoms. I also explained that I had brought it up with several of my UK GPs over the years but that they had always dismissed it as a possible cause of my RA and had not considered it to be a serious problem. Unfortunately, after several soul destroying attempts to obtain dental treatment in the UK, I eventually gave up and just accepted the pain. Had I known the extent of the problem, I would have persevered of course and obtained treatment, somehow.
The dental surgeon confirmed my doctors’ suspicions with the help of various scans, examinations and blood tests. Again, he could not believe the extent of the infection and explained that it was difficult for him to remove the problem tooth in my current condition as it was too badly infected. He prescribed additional specific antibiotics to complement the ones obtained from my doctors and asked me to call in periodically to monitor my progress. He also shared his findings with my doctors.
A few days into taking the antibiotics, my symptoms started to improve, particularly in my mouth of course but also I noticed a greater range of movement in some of my fingers and my feet were no longer swollen. A week later whilst discussing new blood test results with my doctors, they confirmed that I had achieved about a 30% improvement in the severity of my infection (apparently enough to silence the alarm bells). Following on from this, they advised me that it would take between one and three years of oral antibiotic treatment to completely clear the infection, along with appropriate dental treatment. My doctors also explained that intravenous antibiotic therapy would be more effective but since I was only there for a short time, it wasn’t really practical because I wouldn’t be able to continue the treatment in the UK.
The upshot of all this is, I have proof of what I always suspected to be the case; that my joint inflammation was caused (in part or wholly) by some type of infection, and now I know what it was and how it started; a streptococci group – tooth/gum infection which gradually became a hidden abscess inside my gum/jaw where most of the infected tooth broke away and left a deep hole which never healed.Streptococcus mutans causes plaque, tooth erosion and cavities and this was probably what initiated my problem decades ago. However, my systemic infection appears to have been caused by group A or B streptococcus originating either directly from my long-term tooth infection/abscess, or by external infection from some contaminated food or drink due to the susceptibility of my broken tooth and the deep surrounding abscess. Unfortunately, because of the rush to administer antibiotics and because I was feeling so ill, I never managed to obtain further more detailed tests to confirm exactly which strain caused or worsened my joint inflammation. However I suspect ‘pyogenes’ because of my symptoms; swollen lymph nodes, intermittent fever, increased joint inflammation, flu symptoms, skin rash etc.
This of course makes me think that there could be many more people out there suffering with rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory conditions, who may have a tooth related infection (there appear to be three types of tooth/gum abscesses) and who may not realise its importance as a potential cause of their disease.
I want to recommend that if you have any kind of tooth decay/pain/abscess and also suffer from RA, get your teeth looked at and get any problems fixed straight away, even if like me you have been putting it off or putting up with it. Also, if you do a little research, you will quickly find a number of papers and articles like this one confirming the link between abscess infection and rheumatoid arthritis and this example of a link between a dental streptococcal infection and rheumatoid arthritis.