The Rheumatoid Patient Foundation (RPF) is celebrating its second annual Rheumatoid Awareness Day on February 2, 2014 to give people who suffer with chronic illness known as rheumatoid arthritis, or rheumatoid disease, a day of recognition.

rheumatoid awareness day groundhog

February 2 is the observance of Groundhog Day and the groundhog can be like rheumatoid disease in several ways.  “Compare disease onset to the moment the groundhog comes out of his hole to look for his shadows,” says Kelly Young, founder of the RPF.  “It’s impossible to predict how aggressive the disease will be or whether treatments will be effective.  The six weeks that the groundhog forecasts correspond to the short window of opportunity for people with rheumatoid disease to get early diagnosis and treatment, which has been shown to be a crucial component of positive outcome.”

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Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive inflammatory disease causing damage to joint and organ tissues, resulting in severe pain, frequent disability, and increased mortality.  For most patients, current treatments neither relieve all symptoms nor assure a healthy future.  Remission is rare.

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects the Feet

  • inflamed tissue push up against nerves and cause numbness and tingling causing weakness, clumsiness,  nerve damage or entrapment (Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is one common nerve entrapment)
  • there can be a sudden inability to raise the foot (due to the nerve damage) leading to permanent paralysis
  • bone loss occurs due to the inflammation leading to osteoporosis and bone fractures
  • multiple joints can be affected at the same time and typically occurs on both sides of the body equally
  • joints in the feet where the long bones (metatarsals) connects to the toe bones (phalanges) are commonly affected resulting in a deformity where the toes gradually shift outward
  • changes in foot structure and loss of flexibility lead to hammertoes, calluses, pain under the ball of the foot, and flat feet
  • heel pain conditions like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and retrocalcaneal bursitis are common problems
  • rheumatoid nodules (lumps under the skin) may appear over the Achilles tendon or on the side of the big toe

Rheumatoid Awareness Day comes at the start of Heart Disease Awareness month, and focuses on another serious aspect of rheumatoid arthritis:  heart involvement.  Studies show that rheumatoid disease may affect the heart prior to diagnosis.  Rheumatoid patients have higher incidence of stroke and atrial fibrillation.  A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic reported that rheumatoid arthritis patients were twice as likely to experience silent heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths.

RPF is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with rheumatoid diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis.  For more information, visit