Many people who have chronic conditions get tattoos to remind themselves, as well as others, that they are stronger than their disease. Others get ink to raise awareness and to be heard.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic inflammatory disease that causes inflammation in the lining of the joints, usually in many parts of the body. This inflammation causes joint cartilage to erode, which in turn causes pain, swelling, and even deformity. There is no cure and the disease affects over 1.5 million adults in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are just a few of the tattoos people affected by RA have gotten to increase awareness about the disease and to give themselves the strength they need to live with it.
If you’d like to share the story behind your own RA tattoo, email us with the subject line “My RA Tattoo” and be sure to include: a photo of your tattoo, a short description of why you got it or why you love it, and your name if you wish to be identified.
“My tattoo was inspired by song lyrics that I grew up on. They not only give me comfort in life, but are a constant reminder that regardless of how I'm feeling or how my day may be going, I've got to push through. I know one must sing in happiness, but also laugh in the face of hardship. The day I got this tattoo is exactly 5 days before graduating from nursing school, and my worst year of pain in my battle with RA.” – Lisa Warrington
“I was diagnosed with JRA at 15 years old. My first rheumy told my mom I'd be in a wheelchair at 21. She took me out of his office looking defeated. I took it as a challenge. I'll be 30 in a week... no chair!” – Sarah Glynn
“I got this not long after being diagnosed with RA. It's obvious what it's about as obviously the reaper will be coming for me early. What I would like to save up for is a biomechanical tattoo to do around either my shoulder or wrist.” – Kerry McIness
“I have had Systemic JIA since I was five years old. In 1993, there were little resources. I was told growing up to hope that I would get better, but that I would be in a wheelchair quickly. I have always held the belief, though, that I will get better as long as I stay true to myself and keep fighting.” – Kristen Schultz
“I have had juvenile idiopathic arthritis since I was 7 years old and now I am 19 years old. About three years ago, the arthritis started to deteriorate my right jaw joint and I ended up getting an implant this year. The reason why I got this tattoo is because it has been an emotional and long battle, but I need to have faith and stay strong. My mom got a tattoo with me as well because she wants to support me through this journey. Arthritis sucks!” – Brittany Melendez
“My RA Tattoo is for the strength my sister and I share! We both have RA and are determined to fight! Love is for the sisters. The colors are for our RA fight!” – Tammie Cederhol
“I am 36 years old and the mother of three children. I was diagnosed with RA three years ago, and one of the first places that RA affected was my left wrist — the hand I write with. Every day is a battle, but I refuse to let it take over my life. I always look at this tattoo to remind myself of where I came from and to keep fighting!” – Shannon
“I was diagnosed with RA in December 2011. I've struggled with this disease just in the few short years I have had it. I just got this tattoo in May 2014 for my 40th birthday and I love it so much. When I look down at my foot I'm reminded that He is always walking with me and helping and guiding me with all my steps in life. With him by my side I can conquer anything... even this disease.” – Anonymous
“This is a quote by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He too had RA. Before his death he was confined to his home. He was visited daily by Henri Matisse. Renoir, almost paralyzed by arthritis, continued to paint in spite of his infirmities. One day as Matisse watched the elder painter work in his studio, fighting torturous pain with each brush stroke, he blurted out, “Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?” Renoir said, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”
This inspired me. Not only because Renoir had RA, but because these words touched my heart in a profound way as I realized that my pain was producing a beautiful brokenness. I have never viewed suffering in the same light since then. – Shamane LaDue
“I was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. My entire life has been a struggle. [I did] not fully understand what this disease was doing to me until I got older—realize what it took from me, and what it continues to take from me. People who are in my life have no way in understanding any of what I go through. It sucks—arthritis sucks.” – Marissa Ankenbauer
“This is a reminder to myself to never give up the fight. Placed on my wrist for the world to see, so they may ask questions, to educate others. The colors represent my fight against RA/fibromyalgia, and the angel is for my dad, who lost his battle due to complications from RA. I’m a survivor.” – Christy
“I am 31 years old with severe RA. I got this tattoo four weeks ago. I had the ribbon put on my left finger, as it was my first deformity. It’s permanently bent. My tattoo raises awareness daily, as most people who see my hand ask what it means. I can hold up my crooked bent finger and say, ‘RA did this to me.’” – Jenn
“I’ve been diagnosed for four years. The RA ribbon on my foot reminds me to take my disease one step at a time!” – Ginger Clinton
“My tattoo reminds me every day to live, love, and laugh. Each ‘L’ looks like a ribbon, and my heart represents my strength to appreciate my life. Each ribbon represents one of my illnesses: asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disease.” – Catherine