The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Surging Among Women


Me typing. I use 3 fingers, 2 thumbs. Right hand: Index finger and thumb. Left hand: index finger, pinkie. and thumb

A recent article in Bottom Line Daily Health News said that rheumatoid arthritis is increasing among women. It’s been 16 years ago this summer I began having symptoms. I was diagnosed a few months later and had just turned 24 years old.

In some ways it is nice to have people at least familiar with the name of the disease. However, overly optimistic commercials about treatment have led to this knowledge.

Someone recently emailed me who was just diagnosed to ask for rheumatoid arthritis resources. The 2 I immediately thought of was The Arthritis Foundation and their magazine Arthritis Today. The magazine has gone through many editorial changes in 16 years and just this year made their web site much more interactive as well as geared towards people under 50 too.

Bottom Line Daily Health News states in their Wed 5/13/2009 edition:

Rheumatoid Arthritis Surging Among Women

Why the increase? Some of the growth can be accounted for by the fact that doctors now have more awareness of how to diagnose the disease. Other factors are at work too, I learned from Eric L. Matteson, MD, chair of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Hormones are known to play a role (since RA typically improves with pregnancy but comes back after delivery) but researchers are examining possible environmental explanations as well. For instance, researchers recently learned that there is an association between living near busy highways and development of RA.

Here’s another theory: For unknown reasons, some people are prone to develop RA after exposure to particular viruses. After a virus has made the rounds and exposed large numbers of people, it may be dormant for a long period, since many people have built immunity. That immunity eventually fades — then, if the same virus returns, it once more affects many people, including some who are susceptible to developing RA. Dr. Matteson noted that such a swell in chronic diseases due to reemergence of a triggering cause, such as virus, is not uncommon.

– Eric L. Matteson, MD, Chair of Rheumatology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

So why do I have RA?

  • Well, I lived on a dead ended gravel road in a little tiny town with two stop lights, in the same house from age 1 to 18.
  • I was rarely ever sick.
  • I got RA before any pregnancy. In fact, I never had a pregnancy. We adopted.

Hence, once again, I am still stumped when people ask, “How did you get RA?” I have no idea. Just blessed I guess. Sometimes we have to live without the answers.


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  sue ellen wrote @

I never heard of Psoriatic arthritis until I was diagnosed a year ago now, and already lost 2 knees to it. I left my job this January and applied for disability, I am 45. Not sure how I got it either, there is a correlation as far as heredity goes, but I am the youngest of 4 children and no one else in the family line had it that we know of. Don’t know, but God is using this disease in my in many ways.

I grew up in a small town ( I know I was 20 miles from Love Canal!! that’s it, no I don’t think so) .

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