Re: What to do!?!?
Have you been to a rheumatologist? To find one in your area, contact the Arthritis Foundation. Be aware many require a referral, and you might have difficulty getting one from the doctors you've seen.
I can certainly relate to you. I'm 58, and have had RA since I was 21. Like you, I was brushed off at first. They kept saying it was stress, anxiety, searching for a way to scam the system (disability), etc. Finally, it got so bad they had to aknowledge it.
I'm puzzled that you say the "test" for RA came back negative. What test are they talking about? Is it the RA factor? That's negative in about half the cases of RA. My rheumatologist doesn't even bother with it. Actually, not to worry you, but RA factor is often negative in the more serious cases.
You're "in luck" that you live in a time with more treatment options than I had when I was your age. Back then, they didn't even have Motrin! It was a big deal when it came out, only in prescription form! Now its OTC! However, for more serious cases, there's better drugs now. The biologics have changed the course of RA treatment. Perhaps you are familiar with the advertisements? Enbrel is the one I take, also, Humiria and Stelara are similar. These drugs actually alter the destructive course of RA, not just control the symptoms. They are injectables, but don't let that scare you (I was scared to death of giving myself a shot at first). its a very easy, sub-cutaneous injection. Usually given 1-2xweek, they have some now 1-2X/month. Problem is, they are very expensive, about $5000/month! Most comprehensive insurances cover it.
There's other drugs that aren't as potent, nor as expensive. IF you have RA they might want to start you on something less potent. Usually the treatment ladder starts with
NSAID---nonsteroidal-antiflammatory drugs, such as Motrin, Naprosyn, etc
immuosuppresant therapy---drugs such as methotrexate, Immuran--
Biologics---as mentioned above
Also, steroids are used for temporary relief of acute episodes
The important thing is to get diagnosed ASAP by someone who knows what they are doing. If its RA or something else, you need to get a DX and treatment plan.
I can especially relate you you because we both experienced health problems at such a young age. My problems were further compounded because I was a young-appearing 21-year old. Doctors assumed I was about 14! I kept being told I was "too young" to have arthritis. There's a big difference between RA and osteoarthritis. OA is a degenerative disease, usually seen in the elderly. However, RA often manifests in younger people, including teens and young adults.
So, if I were you I would:
Contact the arthritis foundation and find a rheumatologist--be aware, you might have to travel. Rheumatologists tend to cluster in large medical centers
Take care, good luck, keep us informed! Oh, and take heart, although RA is not currently curable, the treatment options now available can bring things under control.