Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that impacts a person’s joints and other parts of the body. Living with this painful inflammatory condition can be challenging. Fortunately, there are organizations working to promote RA awareness.
Key annual milestones like Rheumatoid Awareness Day and Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month help put this chronic disease—which affects more than 1 million people in the United States—on the map. Remember, you don’t have to be a community activist or politician to get involved and spread the word about RA.
This article provides an overview of the RA advocacy movement and ways people can get involved through education, research, or social support.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Efforts
Increasing awareness is the first step in educating others about RA and its unique challenges.
In fact, research has shown that a lack of public awareness and patient education about RA can create gaps in medical care and delay people from seeking necessary medical advice, resulting in inadequate treatment. Greater recognition surrounding the disease can help make strides towards the goal of treating as many people as possible and working toward a cure for RA.
Fortunately, several different organizations are raising awareness about this condition, providing an opportunity for people to take action as they desire.
Like other medical conditions, there are several designated events throughout the year to signify the importance of RA for people living with the condition, healthcare professionals, and the general public. These dates also help provide support for people who have been diagnosed with RA through funding and research efforts to improve treatments and care.
These dates include:
- February 2 is Rheumatoid Awareness Day.
- May is National Arthritis Awareness Month.
- September marks Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month.
Social media is a significant driver in increasing global understanding of diseases, including RA. It’s also an effective way to get health issues noticed by lawmakers and other community leaders who often have the power to promote important topics to the top of the legislative agenda.
Online platforms and virtual social media events enable people living with RA (and the people who advocate for them) to discuss the disease and share trusted education resources without having to leave their homes or living space.
Social media is particularly helpful for people dealing with RA’s painful and inflammatory symptoms, who may find physical activities or gatherings challenging or inaccessible.
What Kind of Engagement Works?
Likes, hashtags, shares, and other forms of collective engagement are key for disease awareness on social media. Powerful social media platforms for engagement include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube.
There are several patient advocacy groups and professional societies in the U.S. that function to provide support, information, and awareness for people with RA and others seeking to learn more about the disease. Such organizations help streamline advocacy efforts by tracking legislation and research efforts that affect the lives of people with RA.
These local grassroots groups and national foundations include:
Internationally, there are several organizations that serve to highlight RA awareness and advance treatment and care for rheumatic diseases in developing countries.
Some of these groups include:
What Does the RA Symbol Mean?
Many people are already familiar with the pink ribbon to signify breast cancer awareness. Similarly, RA has its own symbol to raise awareness, elevate support for RA education, and promote compassion for people who live with this chronic condition.
Significance of Colors
The RA ribbon was originally created by the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation in 2013. Its signature colors are indigo and gold, which have a shared significance:
- The indigo color on the body of the ribbon is meant to represent wisdom, knowledge, and infinity, highlighting the role that understanding and awareness play in this often misunderstood disease.
- The gold lining of the ribbon represents hope and triumph. This brighter shade serves as an optimistic reminder for people who have been diagnosed with RA and continue to hope for a cure soon.
Ways to Raise RA Awareness
There are many ways to help raise awareness about RA, depending on your interest, comfort level, and ability to participate.
For example, you may choose to:
- Display the RA ribbon in public or virtual settings
- Educate yourself and those you come in contact with through reputable resources and connections
- Participate in in-person local events, such as a 5k run/walk to raise money for research
- Join a support group, whether in-person or online, for a sense of shared solidarity
Getting Involved in Research
As researchers work to find new effective treatment options and potential prevention strategies for RA, there are multiple ways for people living with RA and advocates to get involved.
If you’re interested in becoming a part of a physical clinical trial, you might start by checking out ongoing studies that are available through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Not interested in becoming a participant? You can still get involved in research by:
How to Join a Support Group
You don’t have to feel alone living with a chronic condition like RA. Surrounding yourself with other people who are going through similar experiences can help you learn about and cope with the daily realities of living with RA.
In fact, research has shown that people who join RA support groups can experience a significantly better quality of life, along with a better understanding of the disease and how it impacts the body.
In addition to providing solidarity, support groups can also offer a venue to vent your frustrations in a healthy way or share tips that may benefit others.
Here are a few options to consider when searching for a RA support group:
Finding Resources for RA Support
If the thought of finding a support group feels daunting or overwhelming, the Arthritis Foundation’s 24-hour hotline provides live support, information, and referrals for resources like support groups. You can reach them at 1-844-571-HELP (4357).
Daily Reminders for People With RA
It’s no secret that living with RA can be exhausting, frustrating, and unpredictable. But when you’re your own best advocate, it’s entirely possible to live well with RA. It’s important to keep the following reminders in mind.
RA Is Chronic
RA is a chronic disease. This means it’s long-lasting and has the potential to worsen over time.
While it’s not curable, RA can be managed with proper care and treatment. Learning how to best manage your RA through a combination of treatment options and lifestyle modifications is key for successfully coping with this chronic condition.
You’re Doing Your Best
RA symptoms can feel differently on any given day. One minute you may have lots of energy, and the next, you may be overwhelmed by stiffness and inflammation.
It’s important to take things one day at a time, and try to remember that you’re doing the best you can to manage the condition. Plus, research shows that people who choose to take on an active role in their medical care have more positive health outcomes and improved quality of life.
You’re Not Alone
Each person’s experience with RA is unique, but that doesn’t mean that you’re alone.
In addition to connecting with others who are on a similar journey with RA, you can lean on supportive friends and family members for assistance and moral support. Speak up if there are specific activities or tasks that you need your loved ones’ help with.
Even if you don’t need physical support, sharing your thoughts and feelings about RA with those you’re close to can make a big difference.
Mental Health Effects of RA
Some studies have shown that people with RA may be more likely to experience mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. If you have any concerns about your mental health, contact a healthcare provider or another trusted source as soon as possible. They’ll be able to refer you to a mental healthcare professional who can recommend treatment options like medication or therapy, if appropriate.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory condition that attacks the joints and can cause damage to other parts of the body. There’s currently no cure for RA, but experts are working to find new effective treatment options and prevention strategies.
Putting a national spotlight on the condition is key to raising this awareness. If you’ve been diagnosed with RA, there are many different options for getting involved and advocating, from education and research to social media and support platforms.
A Word From Verywell
Dealing with the physical and mental effects of RA is much more challenging than people without the condition may realize. There are multiple ways to get involved in RA awareness efforts. Helping others can also improve your outlook and well-being too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to be an advocate if you have RA?
While it’s important for people with RA to educate themselves about the disease they’re living with, it’s not required to actively advocate or promote awareness to those around you. Simply living with RA is enough, and through your interactions, you may positively influence another person’s knowledge about the condition without even realizing it
What is Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month?
In 2016, the American College of Rheumatology created Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month, which takes place in September. The goal is to help educate the public about diseases like RA, symptoms, treatment options, and how greatly it impacts a person’s daily life.
How do you find support from people who do not have RA?
Seeking support from family, friends, significant others, and even colleagues or acquaintances helps with daily tasks and activities, whether the support is practical or emotional. Just remember to ask for help when you need it, and be clear about what type of assistance you’re looking for. Your loved ones will likely be eager to lend a hand.