Awareness campaign about rheumatoid arthritis launched

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Grainne O'Leary, Ronan Sheridan and Aoife McCoy

Grainne O'Leary (Arthritis Ireland), Ronan Sheridan (MSD) and Aoife McCoy pictured at the launch of the Living with RA information campaign.

A campaign to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that affects 45,000 people in Ireland, is launched today by Arthritis Ireland.

Some 2,000 people are diagnosed annually in this country; the majority aged in their 30s, 40s or 50s. Three in four people living with RA are women. Early diagnosis is key to better long-term outcomes. If ignored or left undiagnosed, this chronic disease can impact other organs such as the heart, eyes and lungs, and ultimately can increase mortality.

According to Gráinne O’Leary, CEO of Arthritis Ireland, “It’s important that people know what the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are, so that they don’t dismiss them, but seek medical advice once they recognise one of the warning signs. While symptoms of RA can vary from person to person, the most common are pain and swelling in the joints, stiffness in the joints, redness, inflammation and fatigue.

“Rheumatoid arthritis can have a considerable impact on people’s quality of life, particularly in relation to their career, relationships, lifestyle and mental health. These are the invisible effects of living with the disease,” Ms O’Leary said.

Aoife McCoy (30) from Tyrellspass, Co. Westmeath was diagnosed with RA two weeks after her 18th birthday. She had just started college and was admitted to hospital due to the pain she experienced.

She described her RA as affecting “every single joint in my body – from my jaw down to my baby toe. It makes it extremely difficult and painful to move even an inch, let alone walk and do daily activities. It also makes my joints look deformed from all the swelling.”

Ms McCoy says though that “the most important tool” in dealing with her arthritis is acceptance. “It’s been very difficult to come to terms with my arthritis, but now that I have, it has made a huge difference to me. I still probably have more bad days than good; but it has taught me to really appreciate the good ones when they come. I’ve gained a new and improved outlook on life,” she said.

 

Link to Aoife McCoy blog

Dr Fahd Adeeb, consultant rheumatologist at University Hospital Kerry, reinforces the importance of being attentive to your body and seeking advice. “Don’t ignore the pain, swelling and stiffness, as early recognition and access to treatment are critical to prevent permanent joint damage, loss of function and suffering,” he said.

The Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis awareness campaign is supported by MSD Ireland. Ronan Sheridan, brand and customer manager, MSD commented: “We are delighted to support this important campaign as part of our on-going partnership with Arthritis Ireland. We know from experience that timely, expert information can be hugely helpful to support patients affected by this condition. We are therefore very hopeful that the campaign will provide a host of information which will add real value not only to patients, but to their families.”

Arthritis Ireland will hold a series of information evenings about RA in Tralee (10 September), Dundalk (11 September) and Dublin (12 September). Full details about the events and other information about RA is available on the Arthritis Ireland website.

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