When Eileen Davidson of Vancouver was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 29, much of her life changed. Unable to focus on her job as an esthetician or enjoy being a young new mom, all those things she once loved such as socializing, and hobbies took a backseat. Soon, they were replaced with doctor visits, medications, treatments, and hours of rest while experiencing a whirlwind of symptoms and side effects.
Eileen was initially shocked to be diagnosed with arthritis at such a young age, but she was even more appalled to learn how debilitating rheumatoid arthritis really is. The disease was more than just joint pain — constant fatigue, pain, swelling, brain fog, fevers, depression, and much more.
The number one cause of disability in Canada, yet still plagued with misconceptions
Even though arthritis is the number one cause of long-term disability in Canada, the misconception that it only affects the elderly still looms large. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is one form of inflammatory arthritis, is a serious systemic autoimmune disease. Not only does arthritis affect the joints but the inflammation can also impact the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.
The importance of invisible illness awareness highlighted during an unprecedented time
During the pandemic, it was highlighted that those living with systemic autoimmune conditions like RA are at high risk for COVID-19. There is no doubt the pandemic has been difficult on us all, but especially for those living with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. People with RA not only have had their treatments and self-management put on pause but also face the anxiety of being high risk.
Even though the number of cases of patients with coronavirus has reduced, Canadians like Eileen living with rheumatoid arthritis remain immunocompromised.
We can continue to do our part
September is ‘Arthritis Awareness Month’, an annual opportunity for a dedicated conversation about understanding the seriousness of the disease.
Moving forward from the pandemic, we can all work together for a healthier tomorrow. There are some things we will want to keep from this experience — let one of those be doing our part to protect the most vulnerable.