11 Famous People With Rheumatoid Arthritis
RA throughout history
Archaeological investigations have turned up evidence of injuries, degenerative disease, infections, and tumors in ancient skeletons, but no signs (yet) of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
"It isn’t clear how old rheumatoid arthritis is," says Nortin Hadler, MD, a professor of rheumatology and microbiology/immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The more you look for it in history, the less you find it."
Here is a list of famous people who’ve battled the disease in recent history. (The first confirmed cases of RA were probably in the late 1800s.)
After she recovered from the severe flare-up and leg pain so intense it kept her from walking, Ball moved to Hollywood to launch her film and movie career.
Russell was open about her struggle with the disease and served on a national commission to investigate it. In 1978, two years after Russell’s death from breast cancer at age 69, Congress honored her efforts by founding the Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis at the University of California at San Francisco.
The artist had malignant RA, meaning the disease had spread beyond the joints to affect the skin, nerves, blood vessels, and even the internal organs; the disease contributed to his death at 78.
The 2007 Piaf biopic, La Vie en Rose, illustrated her struggle with the disease, which first struck in her early 30s.
In her 2008 autobiography, Send Yourself Roses, she described how the illness wiped out her sex life and led to her dependence on alcohol. Turner says exercise has helped her cope with the illness, while medication is keeping it under control. The Body Heat star urges others who suspect they might have RA to act quickly, and get a blood test for RA factor. "The earliest you can test for arthritisdo it," she told USA Today in 2001. "It’s just a simple blood test."
But in the 1990s he was able to act again, winning an Oscar in '98 for playing Nick Nolte’s abusive, alcoholic father in Affliction. Backstage at the awards, Coburn claimed that a drug called MSM and a holistic treatment regimen had "cured" his RA. He died of a heart attack in 2002.
Even after her lifelong RA had crippled her hands and feet, she kept traveling and advocating for the causes she supported, including world peace and disarmament, until her death at 84.
Peter Paul Rubens
Also, the hands of people in the paintings he made in the last 30 years of his life appear to show the characteristic swelling and deformity of progressive RA.
Dr. Hadler, however, believes this "is a stylistic issue, and not a depiction of swollen joints."
"Very few human beings can do with their elbow what he did," Dr. Hadler says. Muddying the waters, he adds, is the fact that Koufax had back pain later in his life due to a condition called rheumatoid spondylitis.
"He clearly had a rheumatoid inflammatory disease," he says. "I’m not sure that we ought to just announce he has RA."
An outspoken critic of apartheid, he said he never won the Nobel Prize because he was "a white South African."
The therapy gave him more energy and renewed his appetite. Dufy even painted a work he called "La Cortisone," which he gifted to the drug company developing the medication.
The artist continued to take steroids for the rest of his life, and continued to feel betterand experience the side effects that now make steroid therapy a stopgap, rather than the cure it was initially thought to be.