GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new cases of rheumatoid arthritis are typically two-to-three times higher in women than men.
Sheree Simpson says she first noticed pain in her joints about 20 years ago but didn’t receive a diagnosis until 4 years ago.
“I could hardly walk,” she said. “I was walking with a cane.. for folks that feel like that twinge is just a twinge, it’s not. Check it out.”
According to Dr. Irum M. Idrees, a rheumotologist at Bon Secours St. Francis, the disease is marked by stiffness, especially in the morning.
“Unlike regular wear and tear arthritis, as the day goes on, and the more you start moving, the better you feel,” she said.
As Dr. Idrees explained, the disease happens when the immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake, causing painful swelling.
“Instead of attacking out there, it turns and attacks its own body. One of the most obvious places is its own joints.”
This can cause tissue damage in the joints and swelling, she says.
“It’s kind of like your joints are sitting in a pool of acid. Imagine what would happen to your joints or anything that’s sits in a pool of acid for too long. It will be eroded away, eaten away and thus cause deformities,” she said.
For treatment, Dr. Idrees recommends suppressing the immune system with medication. “It’s a very serious set of drugs that you need to be on, to monitor closely to make sure there are no complications from being immuno-suppressed.”
For 26-year-old Matthew Robinson, that means taking a shot once every other week, which he says is making a huge difference for the nodes that formed in his joints.
“They’ve stopped growing in size,” he said. “And there’s a lot of people that don’t realize they have an auto-immunue disorder.”
Dr. Idrees says rheumatoid arthritis can begin at any age, but she generally sees it most in young women.
According to the CDC, studies show that likelihood increases with age and the onset of RA is highest among adults in their sixties. Studies also show that smoking and obesity increases risk and breastfeeding decreases it.
Bon Secours St. Francis recently added a new Arthritis Wellness Clinic this month. They will be held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month from 6-8pm. The goal is to discuss and overcome individual roadblocks that can get in the way of patients achieving their arthritis and mobility goals. The clinic will have a dietician, nursing staff and Dr. Idrees on site for each clinic.