What We Discovered About Rheumatoid Arthritis from Kathleen Turner?

The two-time Golden Globe award winner for best actress and an American film director fights rheumatoid arthritis.

Kathleen Turner, the incredible actress, and film director was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in 1992 before her 40th birthday. According to the Arthritis Foundation, RA is an autoimmune disease, which the body’s immune system attacks the joints causing tissue inflammation inside of the joints (the synovium) thickens, resulting in pain affecting the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. Over time, RA can cause damage or cartilage loss, which decreases the joint space between bones that is extremely painful to RA patients.

About 1.5 million people in the United States have RA, which impacts women three times as much as men between ages 30 and 60 says the Arthritis Foundation.  

Before her diagnosis, Turner shares on the Health Awareness article, “It was frightening. I did not know what was happening to me. I didn’t know why there was so much pain, and I felt so ill.”  Turner had experienced early symptoms of RA, including fatigue, joint pain, morning stiffness, and inflammation. After her diagnosis, she was able to adapt to adjust her life and fight her autoimmune disease.

Now let’s focus on what we learned about Kathleen Turner and her story fighting RA.

1.) Joint Pain and Stiffness

According to the Vulture interview, the actress expressed what her experience was working with Michael Douglas and Jack Nicholas, but also how she dealt with RA in the 1990s, which was not commonly treated. Turner expresses, “I was in a great deal of pain I don’t know how I got through it. One of the most painful areas was my right wrist. Just touching it would make me want to scream. It is hard to understand the level of pain that this disease [rheumatoid arthritis] brings” (2018).

Joint pain and stiffness are common symptoms of RA, as well as fatigue, numbness, and tingling. It is always advised to see your doctor for any concerns or questions regarding your health. According to Healthline, some other early warning signs to look for includes a decrease in range of motion, chest pain, hard bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms, and difficulty sleeping. Turner explains to the Today morning show, that in the 1990s, when she was diagnosed, RA was not that common and “the only effective treatment…was massive doses of steroids” with “massive side effects. If I went to pick up a bottle, I could not grip it, and people would assume I was inebriated,” she added. Turner was experiencing significant challenges with her RA throughout her career, and at one point, she questioned her acting career because some days, she would not know if she would be able to walk due to her joint pain and stiffness.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, the cause for RA is not fully understood. However, there is evidence that genes, hormones, and environmental factors can impact one’s capability of being diagnosed with RA. For example, “bacteria or viruses, which may trigger development of the disease in a person’s genes, making them more likely to get it; female hormones (70 percent of people with RA are women); obesity; and the body’s response to stressful events such as physical or emotional trauma” (2019).

2.) RA Treatments and Steroids

According to the Arthritis Foundation, Rheumatoid Arthritis treatment’s main goal are to “stop inflammation, relieve symptoms, prevent joint or organ damage, improve physical function, and overall well-being” [of the patient]. One of the main benefits of detecting RA in the early stages is to reduce inflammation and prevent joint damage or severe pain quickly. Each RA case may affect individuals differently, meaning not every RA patient has the same symptoms as other patients. Some medications for RA are accessible over-the-counter or prescribed to target RA symptoms such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other medications such as corticosteroids, which slow down the autoimmune disease. Kathleen Turner tells Vulture, the medication that she used to treat her condition changed her self-esteem and decreased her confidence because of her physicality.  

“I suppose there was a feeling of loss. Rheumatoid arthritis hit in my late 30s — the last of my years in which Hollywood would consider me a sexually appealing leading lady… If I didn’t have that, who was I?” Turner says. Turner had a long journey in finding the right doctor that would support her career and allow her to have hope. One doctor that Turner later fired told her that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair because of her condition, which was far from the truth.  

Turner did not give up and found other doctors that helped battle her RA. Turner can walk and enjoy life without a wheelchair, which has made her feel grateful for her fantastic support system. Turner continued to pursue her dreams and became an iconic actress in many films. Turner not only regained her confidence but became an advocate for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Turner shares her story to help bring awareness about RA and hoping that others will understand the symptoms to look for.  

3.) Turner’s Life Lessons

Turner learned about her condition, and she was able to understand how to cope with her symptoms. Turner shares on Closer Weekly, “I had some tough times. Last year was hell because my medication stopped working. I’m now on something that seems to be working better, but I’m in constant pain.” Turner expresses that her chronic pain mainly affects her feet and hands, which has also made her feel insecure about her body as she gets older. Turner said, “Every time I look in a mirror, I think I’ve got to lose weight! I try to eat healthily.” Regardless, Turner continues to love herself and be a fantastic role model for her daughter, Rachel Ann Weiss. Rachel shares the advice her mother told her, She has always taught me there is no halfway, You must invest yourself fully.  Turner has been able to teach her daughter the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle because it can help improve one’s overall health. Kathleen Turner takes on everyday head-on. Chronic pain is no joke, but learning how to control and manage RA symptoms is essential.

4.) Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

Kathleen Turner is an RA Warrior, who is passionate about sharing her story to help other individuals understand the autoimmune disease. It is essential to maintain a balanced diet because it can help alleviate RA symptoms. In the Daily Mail, Kathleen Turner expresses, she had 12 operations over 12 years to maintain her painful symptoms and says, Pilates saved my life, which she practices twice a week to maintain her strength and flexibility. Practicing workout that targets improving coordination and balance is a great way to help alleviate RA symptoms. Turner did not let her RA get the best of her as she continued to reach success as a director. Turner is a fighter and continues to tackle her condition.  

Some helpful diet tips that can reduce inflammation is known as the anti-inflammatory diet for RA patients. The Arthritis Foundation states, the consumption of “foods that are rich in antioxidants to help control and reduce inflammation.” Some foods that are high in antioxidants are berries, fish, vegetables, and olive oil. Besides getting a nutritious diet, it is essential to get rest throughout the day to conserve energy and protect joints. Some exercises that are important to incorporate are aerobic activities such as swimming, cycling, and Pilates, which improves muscle strength and flexibility.  

By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, will help reduce stress, manage your RA symptoms, and improving your overall health. A cookbook that has many great meals to help with RA patients is called The Rheumatoid Arthritis Cookbook by Samson Caitlin, which has anti-inflammatory recipes to fight flares and fatigue. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your health, always contact your healthcare provider. Finding the right diet or exercising may be difficult, but it is essential to try and find what remedies work best for you.

“Behind every chronic illness is a person trying to find their way” – RheumaRelief


Related Articles

Sleeping with Rheumatoid Arthritis (2019).

Vitamin Therapy for RA Patients (2019).

Exercising with RA (2019).


Arthritis Foundation (2019)

Amazon: Rheumatoid Arthritis Cookbook (2017)

Daily Mail (2014)

Healthline (2018)

Today Morning show (2018)

Vulture Interview (2018)

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