Monday, 2 February 2015

Third Annual Rheumatoid Awareness Day

February 2nd was Rheumatoid Awareness Day. You can find more about the history of this awareness campaign here at the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation.

Happy 3rd Birthday!

This symbol of the day - the groundhog and the tie-in to bringing rheumatoid disease out of the shadows seems particularly poignant.

From Rheumatoid Patient Foundation
Every day when I wake up in the morning it feels like Groundhog Day. I don't have the same bed and same clock the way Bill Murray did in the movie, but the same aches, pains, fatigue and deformities are there every morning when I wake up. Despite my carefully cultivated optimism and the best efforts of my doctors and myself at the best care, in my case rheumatoid Disease doesn't go away and doesn't give up. 

Compared to people who developed RD earlier in their lives, in particular the mothers of two friends, I am a glowing picture of  health. It's obviously true that treatments are better now. We used to see many people with permanent deformities or in wheelchairs in Rheumatologist's offices where now most of patients look quite healthy. The effects of RD are less visible, and rates of some types of joint surgery are decreasing.

In my volunteer work as a Patient Partner, which is a program in which trained patients teach medical students about musculoskeletal problems, the person I am most often partnered with is almost the same age as I am but with a later onset and more effective treatment. It is a diagnostic challenge to see her visible symptoms.

We need to increase awareness of Rheumatoid Disease and the effects on patients among the general population.

We also wish there were a campaign to educate family doctors to recognize RD faster. The opportunity to have it go into remission is only a short period of time after it begins. They call that the window of opportunity. If even twice as many people could achieve remission the costs of RD would be much less.

The other area that needs attention is research funding.

To use statistics from the US as an example there are 50 million people with autoimmune disease and 11 million with cancer in the population.  Autoimmune disease is the poor cousin in this equation.  Cancer is estimated to be receiving $7,762 million this year (2013) compared to $872 million for autoimmune disorders.   

Autoimmune disease is blue. Research money shows on the right

 This chart compares cancer incidence and funding with autoimmune diseases. You can see how unbalanced this is. If we had even half as much money for research in autoimmune disease as there is  for cancer we could see huge strides forward for new and more effective treatments. Maybe the new drugs would even be affordable.

So today is the day to let more people know about Rheumatoid Disease. "Not your grandmother's arthritis!"

Here's a link to last year's Rheumatoid Disease Awareness Day post.