"Believe it or not, this is actually me getting better."

By Leah Groth
January 16, 2020

Actress Tatum O’Neal is opening up about her struggle with rheumatoid arthritis—and the toll its taken on her body.

In a new Instagram post shared Wednesday, O'Neal, 56, shared a photo of her back, covered with surgery scars and bruises, to demonstrate what it's like to live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). "A fall scratch scar on my right hip," she began, describing the history of each of her scars. "And the back surgery scar from eight years ago. My last back surgery scar is on the front from February."

O'Neal also revealed a bit about her current treatment plan, pointing to the red marks on her back: "All those red marks are from heating pad. I should probably turn those down a little bit," she said.

In another post, shared recently, O'Neal also opened up about a few of her RA symptoms. "I hate texting because my hands suck right now," she wrote. "So if I don't text you back I promise it's nothing personal."

Luckily, it wasn't all bad news for O'Neal. "Believe it or not this is me actually getting better," she said. "Cheers to everyone and rheumatoid arthritis can go f–k itself."

RELATED: This X-Ray of a Woman’s 'Telescoping Fingers' Shows the Painful Reality of Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is rheumatoid arthritis? 

According to the Arthritis Association, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease—or when the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells—most commonly impacting the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles. Additionally, it can affect organs and body systems, such as the lungs, heart, and eyes. The American College of Rheumatology claims that 1.3 million adults suffer from the often debilitating health condition. 

Symptoms of the disease—which include joint pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of joint function as well as weakness, weight loss, fever, and fatigue, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—oftentimes come and go, as the disease exists in periods of flaring and remission.

While there is no cure for RA, ongoing monitoring and an effective treatment plan, including medications like disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biological response modifiers (BRMs, aka immunotherapy) paired with pain reducing self-management practices, can result in periods of remission for sufferers with low to no disease activity. 

While specific causes of RA are unknown, there are a variety of risk factors, including age, sex, genetics, smoking, and obesity.

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