September is Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month

August 27, 2019

September is more than back to school and the arrival of pumpkin-spice-flavored everything. It is also Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month, a national effort created by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 2016 to bring attention to the more than 100 conditions that fall under the umbrella of rheumatic disease.

September is more than back to school and the arrival of pumpkin-spice-flavored everything. It is also Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month, a national effort created by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 2016 to bring attention to the more than 100 conditions that fall under the umbrella of rheumatic disease.

This year’s spokesperson is professional tennis player Venus Williams who has Sjogren's syndrome. In a public service announcement posted on SimpleTasks.org―ACRs public awareness campaign―Ms. Williams talks about how she suffered from swollen joints, fatigue and dry eyes and mouth for six years before she was diagnosed. “Today, I follow my rheumatologist’s treatment plan and I am back on top of my game,” she says.

According to a story on theMighty.com, Ms. Williams was pulled out of the U.S. Open soon after her diagnosis in 2011. “I couldn’t raise my arm over my head; the racket felt like concrete. I had no feeling in my hands: They were swollen and achy. I realized [the U.S. Open] would be a miserable show… You realize, ‘I am not in control of this. Even if I want to feel good, I can’t.’ It’s a great reminder that when you’re sick, you can still accomplish (almost) anything-but you can’t accomplish everything,” she said.

More awareness about rheumatic diseases is important because so few in the general public understand the prevalence or severity of these conditions. “Chances are, if you don’t have a rheumatic disease, you know somebody who does. More than 54 million American adults―one in four―have been diagnosed with one,” according to SimpleTasks.org.
SimpleTasks.org is “not just education, but it’s also designed to harness the power of our people,” said Suleman Bhana, M.D., FACR, chair of the communications and marketing committee for ACR. Bhana is a rheumatologist in New York’s Hudson Valley.

The site includes an advocacy page with emailable call to action letters for members of Congress on issues that include the physician shortage, prior authorization use, access to osteoporosis testing and step therapy.

It is important for physicians to help patients not feel they are victims of a challenging healthcare system, Dr. Bhana said. “Show patients that their voice is important. You don’t have to be a passive recipient. You can use your voice,” he said.

Visit SimpleTasks.org for more information about rheumatic diseases, case studies and personal stories from patients.