Philadelphia woman helping arthritis patients with new app

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Philadelphia woman helping arthritis patients with new app: Monica Malpass reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on August 23, 2017. (WPVI)

Rheumatoid arthritis can take a toll on the body and spirit and the wide-ranging, often changeable symptoms can be overwhelming.

Now, a new resource aims to help those who suffer from the auto-immune disease. It's completely free and a Philadelphia woman is lending her voice to creating it.

Looking back, Tien Sydnor-Campbell thinks her first signs of rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, came when she was just 12.

"I had little symptoms. I would have symptoms like knees locking," she said.

But they didn't stop her from a career helping others or an athletic life.

"I would go swimming, I would go weight-lifting," she recalls.

She also did a triathlon. In recent years, however, the pain mounted in her knees, and all around.

"It seemed like it was jumping from joint to joint. And then it went into my chest, and I couldn't breathe," she said.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes chronic inflammation of joint linings, but it can also damage the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.

Forced to retire, the 47-year-old Tien is now an RA patient advocate. She helped design and test Arthritis Power, a federally-funded app project.

She does frequent assessments, tracking her symptoms for any patterns, and checking treatments, to see what works.

It's the checklist doctors use, but in the patient's own hands.

"Patients want to know the answers, to help them make better decisions about their own healthcare," said Benjamin Nowell, Ph.D..

The info from Arthritis Power gives patients a voice in future research, and daily care.

"They felt the medication entry was too limited. They wanted to be able to track all of their medications, not just their rheumatologic medications," said Dr. Nowell.

Through the app, Tien also connects directly with other RA patients to exchange insights, or advice.

Arthritis Power is part of the 'patient-powered research' created by the Affordable Care Act and Dr. Nowell says it's a great model for helping those with other conditions.

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