Actress Claire King was devastated when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis but it hasn’t held her back

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Claire King is a familiar face on television screens, best known for her time in hugely successful shows such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Bad Girls and Strictly Come Dancing. Less well known, however, is that it hasn’t all been glitter, sequins and glamour for Claire, as she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in1992, when just in her early thirties.“My fingers and joints had been throbbing and painful for some time, and a blood test confirmed rheumatoid arthritis,” she remembers. “I was surprised and devastated in equal measure – I had a total lack of awareness and had always assumed arthritis was an older person’s disease. I live in a rural area and feared the worst: would I be able to drive myself to work? Would Emmerdale even still want me? But my GP was wonderful, filling me in with all the relevant information and helping me to control my arthritis and alleviate my pain.”

As with everyone with arthritis, Claire has good and bad days, but for the most part, she doesn’t let it stop her from living the life she chooses. Together with a friend, Claire launched Fabulous over Forty, a monthly event in northern England that offers a fun-packed day of makeovers, lectures from a doctor, fashion and lingerie advice, information about supplements and magnetic jewellery.

“I’m an Arbonne consultant so am up to speed on fabulous products, and my brother makes supplements so he’s key to the day too,” she says. “At the moment I’m enthused about magnets that I recently started wearing in my shoes. They seem to stimulate circulation and help my arthritis… so I’m keen to pass that on to people.

“I definitely find the winter months harder in terms of pain. When I was 38 years old my consultant recommended I move my treatment up a gear as rheumatoid arthritis often worsens with age. So I was put on hydroxychloroquine sulphate, to suppress my immune system, and meloxicam, an anti-inflammatory. Methotrexate once a week is part of my regime too now and I need monthly blood tests check that my immune system is still in normal range.”

In addition to regular folic acid and the tailor-made supplements that Claire’s brother gives her (a mixture of antioxidants and glucosamine), she takes methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a naturally occurring form of sulphur that is believed by some to help maintain cartilage and joints.

“I thought it was worth a go and was amazed to find that after a few months my feet and hands ached less than they did,” she says. “If I ever run out of MSM I notice such a difference. I also have a healthy dose of vitamin D every now and then… in Spain where I have a second home.”

A common theme amongst people living with chronic disease is the importance of finding a way of coping and working out what makes a difference.

“Red wine used to be a favourite of mine but I noticed it had a big negative impact so I’ve given it up; white wine seems ok though,” Claire laughs. “Acidic foods are bad and tannins not great, so while I was previously an avid Yorkshire Tea drinker, it’s green tea with a dash of lemon these days.

“Although I try not to take pain killers, if pain keeps me awake at night I will take one. I have insomnia too and very occasionally take a sleeping pill if I’ve been without for a long time, just to keep me sane. Massage helps as does relaxing in a warm bath with a book. A relaxed mind leads to a relaxed body.”

Exercise has been a big part of Claire’s life as she loves horse riding.

“I’m sure I have that to blame – or probably the falling off – for my rheumatoid arthritis, although the fact that my mother has it too and my father has multiple sclerosis leads me to believe there must be a genetic component there somewhere,” she explains.

“Advice for other people with arthritis? Exercise helps keep the joints mobile and just doing a little of what you can manage can make a long-term difference. Find out what food and drink to avoid by watching the impact that different items have on your body. Try some natural products that don’t interfere with prescription drugs but do speak to your GP first, and give magnetic jewellery a go, it’s worth a try and looks nice too.”

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First published Summer 2014.

For more in-depth features, interviews and information, subscribe to Arthritis Digest magazine, a popular title that’s published six times a year. Click here for the digital version or tel 0845 643 8470 to order your had copy. You’ll know what your doctor is talking about, what new drugs are in the pipeline and be up to date on helpful products.

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