WASHINGTON – Dr. Sue Zieman can almost set her watch by her disease: Twice a day, she gets a fever and the already arthritic joints in her arms and hands, legs and feet abruptly, painfully swell even more. During the evening flare, even the tendons in her feet puff up, rope-like worms just under her skin.
The rest of the day, her joints are so stiff that the once robust Maryland physician frequently uses a scooter to get around. Just shaking hands hurts the 47-year-old.
Inflammatory arthritis is disabling Zieman but exactly what kind and what caused it to attack suddenly is a mystery. Nor do her fellow doctors know what treatment to suggest next. She’s tried all of today’s arthritis medications with little relief.
Say arthritis, and people tend to shrug it off as a rite of passage of aging. The reality is much more complicated. Arthritis encompasses 100 different conditions and affects about 46 million people in the U.S.