Edith Piaf. We do not need to present this world music star, right? An outstanding singer, the epitome of a fairy tale about Cinderella, who from Paris suburbs went straight to world salons. Fairy tales without a happy end, because alcohol addiction and painkillers led Edith to the grave at the age of 48. Her story, however, is also interesting from a medical point of view. Piaf suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and, according to some hypotheses, it was one of the main reasons for her addiction to painkillers. What is this disease and how is it manifested? Has medicine made progress in its treatment, are we still at the same level as in the days of Edith Piaf?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, i.e. one in which our immune system begins to attack its own cells, tissues and entire organs. In this case, the joints are attacked first. A chronic inflammation develops which manifests itself as swelling, painfulness and progressive destruction of the joint.
RA most often affects patients between 30 and 40 years of age. It is estimated that women suffer about 3 times more often. Edith Piaf fitted it perfectly. Most likely, she fell ill around 1950, around the age of 35. This is quite typical for autoimmune diseases. Many of them are revealed very early - in children, adolescents and young adults. Therefore, even individual - often seemingly trivial - symptoms, must not be underestimated and it is worth going to the doctor.
Rheumatoid Arthritis develops within a few or several weeks. The first symptom is the most common pain and swelling of the symmetric joints of the hands and feet. The stiffness that appears after a longer period of immobility is characteristic. It may last from a dozen to several dozen minutes. In addition, rheumatoid arthritis may also be accompanied by systemic symptoms such as low-grade fever, muscle pain or a sense of breakdown. Symptoms in untreated RA over time become stronger and make even the smallest movement can be very painful.
This is a very difficult question, given that Edith Piaf also suffered from other diseases and did not avoid alcohol in her lush life. Certainly, over the last 70 years, medicine has made great progress in the diagnosis and treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. It used to be based mainly on physical examination and interview, and the specificity of the disease was little understood.
Today we have a number of tests at our disposal. Imaging examinations such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, allow to detect changes in the bones and joints at an early stage. Thanks to the study of the level of antibodies or other markers characteristic of RA, we can establish a diagnosis with a great deal of certainty. And the right diagnosis is faster and more effective treatment.
Exactly - treatment - has progress been made here as compared to the 1950s?
Yes of course. Today, we have at our disposal modern drugs modifying the course of the disease or biological treatment. They are effective and their regular admission most often allows you to slow down the progression of the disease, alleviate its symptoms and allow patients a normal life. In the days of splendor Edith Piaf it was impossible. Poor Edith was doomed to take a huge amount of painkillers, which in combination with alcohol formed a deadly mix. Among other things, it caused that we had to say goodbye to such a big star of world music already at the age of 48 years. But as she sang "Non, je ne regrette rien" meaning "I do not regret anything" - and that's how she left. Without regretting anything.