Awhile back we were discussing arthritis with the FindMeCure team and I was like “Can you believe Renoir had arthritis?!”. Apparently, I was the last one in on it, as everybody else I had mentioned it to already knew. It was shock to me though – I like Renoir’s work but I had never read anything about him as a person and to find out that at the end of his life his arthritis was so bad, he had to tie the brush to his hand to keep on painting added a whole new dimension to his artistic heritage.

It got me thinking, that’s what all of you do. You may not be artists but you, like Renoir, persist through the pain and keep on going about your lives day in, day out. So, today instead of talking about all of the clinical trials looking for a cure or at least a potent enough pain-reliever, we’re going to talk famous people with arthritis, as I believe they can be a good source of motivation and inspiration. Firstly, even though it’s not known how old RA is, the first reported cases go as far back as the late 19th century. So no Cleopatra here on the list, however there are some femme fatales who lived with RA in the 20th century like…

Edith Piaf It’s believed that her severe RA is part of the reason the chanteuse was addicted to morphine and had alcohol problems. Her struggle with the disease started in her 30s and it’s depicted in the 2007 movie about her life, La Vie en Rose.

Rosalind Russell, as in Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis in SF, was an actress (“Gypsy”, “His Girl Friday”, “A Woman of Distinction”), whose severe RA forced her to retire from acting. She claimed her cortisone treatment caused “chipmunk cheeks” but nevertheless she kept showing up with her head held high and dedicated the rest of her life to raising RA awareness. Hence, the Medical Research Center in her honor.

Lucille Ball, another actress on the list. Famous for “I Love Lucy” (1951-1957) Lucille Ball was diagnosed with RA in her late teens when she was trying to become a model. The diagnosis however is questioned by some, as blood tests for RA would be developed years later. Lucille Ball overcame her severe leg pain which kept her from walking and
eventually made her way as a Hollywood actress.

Peter Paul Rubens. Surprisingly, it is believed by some that the 17th century painter had might have had RA which would make the disease older than previously thought. It might be pure speculation as some of the evidence for the “diagnosis” comes from his paintings – it appears the hands of the people in his last 30 years worth of work show the swelling and deformity characteristic of RA.

James Coburn, the famous actor from your favorite 60s and 70s Westerns, also had RA. In fact, this is the reason he retired from acting in the 80s. That is until the 90s when he won an Oscar for his role in “Affliction”. Coburn claimed that a holistic approach as well as a drug called MSM cured his RA. (Just so you know, MSM is advertised as a “miracle supplement”, which already got me suspicious, so… don’t get adventurous and as always, consult your doctor before trying anything.)

Megan Park who played cheerleader Grace Bowman on “The Secret Life of The American Teenager” has been living with RA since she was a teenager herself. In 2015 she went public about it and she has told People magazine that she had “classic symptoms” like pain and joint swelling.

Kristy McPherson, a pro-golfer was diagnosed with Still’s disease, which is a form of arthritis, and was first told by doctors to forget about sports. However, rheumatologist who treated her later told her that she can do whatever she wanted even with arthritis as part of her life – that’s when she went back to sports.

Here they are – 7 famous people, whose arthritis diagnosis didn’t keep them from living their lives, starring in movies, making songs, painting and playing golf. Although RA cannot be dated back in time, we look to the future for its cure. And if you want to take researchers one step closer to finding the cure or you hope to find a better treatment for yourself, check out the clinical trials our database comes up with!

Article by Nelly Katsarova



  1. This is very good post, I am looking for this kind of article, i read another article about rheumatoid arthritis which was very helpful for me.

  2. Very good. Inspiref

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