Years of Silent Suffering Inspires Powerful Message in Support of Early Diagnosis and Treatment
February 2002 (Newstream) -- Award-winning actress Kathleen Turner is spearheading a new educational campaign to raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis, otherwise known as RA, a disease she has waged a personal battle with for over 10 years. Because of her personal and frustrating struggle with RA, Turner wants to help others avoid the debilitating joint damage and disfigurement that can occur if it is not detected early and treated aggressively. Nearly 2.1 million Americans have RA, which can be difficult to diagnose because it can begin gradually with subtle, often inconsistent symptoms including painful swollen joints, fatigue and prolonged morning stiffness. Like most autoimmune diseases, the average time from onset until diagnosis of RA is three to five years.
Known for her energetic and seductive roles on stage and screen, Kathleen Turner hasn't let RA impede her career, despite the sometimes severe pain and joint stiffness. Now, she wants others to know that RA does not have to mean a lifetime of limitations.
"The year before I was diagnosed was terribly frightening. I didn't know what was happening to me. I didn't know why there was so much pain, and why I felt so ill, " said Kathleen Turner. "I'm involved in this campaign because I want people to know that they can get information, to know that they can manage this disease, and they can fight for their lives and their lifestyle. I want them to know that there is help."
Today, Kathleen Turner feels in control of her RA because she has educated herself about the disease and has gotten the help of a breakthrough biotech medicine. She is encouraging people with RA or with RA symptoms to act fast and empower themselves with information about the disease.
"Early diagnosis and treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis is critical," said Dr. Stephen Paget, Physician in Chief and Chairman of the Division of Rheumatology, Hospital for Special Surgery. "When inflammation starts, it starts within the first several months of the disease and destroys cartilage and joints. Providing patients with treatments that can inhibit the progression of the joint disease may help them lead more normal lives."
RA predominantly affects women in the prime of their lives who often are starting families, building careers and living an active lifestyle. Although RA is a progressive and potentially debilitating disease, the progression of the joint damage may be stopped if signs and symptoms are recognized and the disease is treated in its early stages.
In rheumatoid arthritis, unlike osteoarthritis, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its joints and soft tissues. New therapies, such as biologic response modifiers have been shown not only to reduce pain and inflammation, but also to actually inhibit the progression of the joint disease.
The early warning signs of RA may include fatigue, prolonged morning stiffness, and difficulty in moving joints, and/or pain and inflammation in or around joints. If you think you, a friend or a family member may have RA, you should see a rheumatologist who can talk to you about the condition as well as early, aggressive therapy.
For more, please read the Rheumatoid Arthritis article.