Oxford

Nicola Blackwood MP speaks out to reduce chronic illness stigma

Nicola Blackwood Image copyright Conservative party
Image caption Ms Blackwood said she wanted to reduce the stigma surrounding chronic illness

Oxford MP Nicola Blackwood has spoken out about her "hidden illness" to raise awareness of people living with debilitating conditions.

Just before May's general election Miss Blackwood, now Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, revealed she had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

The condition affects the joints and muscles and can lead to constant pain.

Miss Blackwood is campaigning to reduce the "stigma" for people with "chronic illnesses".

She was diagnosed with the genetic condition two years ago, after suffering joint pain, migraines and asthma.

She said she made the decision to go public before the election because she felt it was "right" that people knew about her illness.

'Disability stigma'

She wanted also to show that people with hidden conditions can still do "stressful, high-profile jobs".

Miss Blackwood said: "One of the reasons why I spoke out publicly was I felt it was important to be clear it's not a terminal illness, and even though it's chronic it's perfectly possible to carry on a normal life and get on with things.

"I think we still suffer in this country with quite a stigma around disability and chronic illness and we have to get over it."

Talking to BBC Oxford, Miss Blackwood said she made changes to her diet and took up Pilates to help manage the condition.

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