A YOUNG mother has been chosen to front a campaign shining the light on rheumatoid arthritis, a condition she was diagnosed with at the age of just 29.

Carla Carter, 35, from Haydon Wick, is among three sufferers across the UK chosen to feature on posters and pamphlets to promote Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness from June 16 to 22.

The mother-of-one first experienced unusual stiffness and discomfort in her hands and feet during her honeymoon in Goa in November 2007, but put the pain down to the humid weather.

On her return to the UK she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease.

The debilitating illness caused her immune system to attack the cells that lined her joints, making them swollen, stiff and painful and damaging her bones.

“When we were in Goa I had stiff wrists and feet in the morning, I was aching and I had swollen fingers but I thought it was because it was very humid,” said the clinical audit facilitator for Avon and Wiltshire Partnership, the region’s mental health services. “I also had sore ankles and toes.

“I had already been getting wrist pain using my computer before but I just thought it was repetitive stress injury at the time.

“When I was diagnosed with it at the end of 2007 it was a shock. I started taking methotrexate, which is a chemotherapy drug, in small doses to lower my immune system to try and stop to the joints from being damaged. But it means you are more prone to infections.”

In order to get pregnant, Carla came off her medication, which led to more bone damage. In 2010 she gave birth to baby Isabel. Two years later, she had to have her right wrist entirely replaced.

“During the pregnancy my wrist became really bad,” she said. “I couldn’t move it sometimes, my fingers got stuck in the palm of my hand – it was really painful. I had to get steroid injections.

“It was hard when Isabel was born, having to lift her with stiff hands.

“Now because of my wrist replacement I am not allowed to lift anything heavier than five pounds on that wrist so it’s not easy. I find it hard to lift Isabel in a shopping trolley, for example. Doing normal things and being a normal mum, I have to be careful.”

Last year Carla underwent further surgery after one of the tendons in her right hand snapped.

By sharing her story and standing proof to the fact that RA can affect anyone no matter their age, Carla is hoping to correct the public’s misconceptions and raise awareness of sufferers’ daily struggles.

“I wanted to raise the profile of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and hopefully help those that may be suffering like me in Swindon; especially those that are young,” she added. “And I wanted to promote the awareness week in general. The key is getting the disease recognised by GPs first to enable people to get the correct treatment.”

To find out more about Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week go on www.nras.org.uk.