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Support group reaches out to silent sufferers

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A NORTH WEST support group for people suffering with two of the most debilitating inflammatory conditions is reaching out to silent sufferers.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) causes unbearable pain, stiffness and inflammation in the muscles around the shoulders, neck and hips.

Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) is an inflammatory disease of the arteries and blood vessels, usually involving the arteries in the head. If not diagnosed and treated quickly enough, GCA can lead to irreversible blindness. Both conditions primarily affect those over 50 and are three times more likely to have an effect on women.

The PMR/GCA North West Support Group was set up by local business woman Ann Chambers in 2013 after she struggled to access support and information following her mum’s diagnosis with PMR.

The Group, which covers Warrington, is now attracting people from across the region with members travelling to Leigh from as far away as Carlisle and North Wales.

Ann Chambers, Founder of the PMR/GCA North West Support Group, said: “Despite the fact that PMR is one of the most common inflammatory diseases affecting older people, most people have never heard of PMR or GCA.

It took six months of pain and distress for my mum, and our whole family, before she finally received the right diagnosis and the treatment she so desperately needed. There were times when she was so ill that I honestly thought she wouldn’t be with us much longer. However, once she was diagnosed and treated with a high dose of intravenous steroids the change was incredible.

So few people are aware of PMR and GCA and they’re difficult to diagnose so it’s really important that we raise awareness of these conditions. That’s why I wanted to start a regional support group; to bring people together with these conditions and stop them feeling so isolated and alone.”

Bill Wogan (72), from Ashton-in-Makerfield, has been a member of the Group for three years. He said: “I suffered in silence with my condition for over 10 years before I spotted a leaflet for the support group on a routine hospital visit. I have been on steroids since 2004 and they make a huge difference to my everyday life. However, meeting others, talking about it and hearing how others deal with the condition has been just as important to me. I felt very welcome from the beginning and have even taken my wife along with me a few times.

I would strongly recommend the Support Group to others who have or suspect they have these conditions. Please don’t suffer alone.”

The next PMR/GCA North West Support Group meeting will take place at 1pm on Tuesday 14 March at the Sporting Lodge Inns, Greyhound Hotel, Warrington Road, Leigh.

To register your interest, please contact Ann Chambers on 01942 895 806 or email northwest@pmrgcasupport.co.uk.

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