Chronic disease affects mental and physical health

Tamas Miko
By Tamas Miko February 16, 2018 13:52

Meagan LeBlanc talks about her experience at the support group meeting (Photo by Tamas Miko)


Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common chronic diseases among women and can affect mental and physical health, experts say.

At the Windsor Arthritis Support Group meeting at Windsor Regional Hospital Feb.7, Lori Market pointed out the psychological components of rheumatoid arthritis. A chronic disease such as RA is an inflammatory disorder that mistakenly attacks body tissues.

“People with RA are at a greater risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation, so I thought it was important to discuss this issue,” said Market.

Studies show some signs of rheumatoid arthritis are tender, warm and swollen joints, fever, weight loss and fatigue. However, in 40 per cent of people, rheumatoid arthritis attacks other organs too such as lungs, kidney, skin, bone, heart and eyes. The symptoms may vary and it can come and go, according to research. Studies also show joints in fingers could deform and move out of shape which makes it hard to deal with daily activities.


“When my RA was at its most aggressive point I struggled to walk, drive, get down my stairs, get dressed and conduct other daily activities that I had previously completed with ease,” said Market.


Market said the problem is doctors do not often screen for mental health issues at the time of diagnosis. She said there are not enough resources when it comes to mental health support related to arthritis. In the summer of 2017, Market’s RA got aggressive and prevented her from enjoying daily life and finding a job after completing her education.

Family history, sex, smoking, obesity and age are some factors that could contribute to a person could developing this chronic disease. Women between the ages of 40 and 60 are more at risk to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis also increases the chances of developing other health problems.

People with RA are at high risk to develop depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and low self-esteem.


Meagan LeBlanc is another member of the arthritis support group which was established in January 2017. LeBlanc said the idea was to reach out to people and bring them together where they feel someone understands them. Relatives do not always understand what it feels like having arthritis, but in the group everyone can relate to each other.

“When you can say I am having a bad day or a flare and the person sitting next to them says, I understand I have been there,” said LeBlanc.


LeBlanc said there are no other arthritis support groups for people in the Windsor-Essex area. The support group has more than 25 members and LeBlanc said they are expecting more people will show up at the meetings. Ages of group members may vary from 20 to 60 years old.

LeBlanc was diagnosed with RA when she only a baby.  She said even though she had to see doctors often when she was a child, arthritis never stopped her from doing anything. She had to take medications and used acupuncture and physiotherapy among other treatments.


According to studies there is no cure for arthritis but there is the possibility of remission. Blood tests and x-rays can help keep an eye on the disease over time. The variety of medications depends on how severe the arthritis is and how long the person has had the chronic illness. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, steroids, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, therapy and surgery could be used when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis.

Tamas Miko
By Tamas Miko February 16, 2018 13:52

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