With rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affecting about 1% of the population, experts pinpoint that women are three times more likely to develop RA than men due to hormonal, environmental and genetic factors.
It mostly affects young women between age group of 30 and 50 years and it is not an age related disease. Experts further inform that RA may become quiet and go into remission during pregnancy and can flare up post-delivery.
Besides this, awareness levels are low even in cities and it is important to educate general practitioners so that they recognize the symptoms in advance.
Experts also caution, “Perceptions that the drugs used in RA are much more toxic than the disease itself is also wrong. Unlike the popular belief, pain killers and steroids are minimally used and there are specific drugs for RA. For severe disease, advanced therapy is also available which can control the disease very well.”
Early treatment is the key to have a minimum impact on the disease in one’s life. The longer the disease remains untreated, the greater is the damage. The golden period is the first three months of the onset of symptoms.
RA is a chronic, debilitating disease that causes a major impact on a patient’s quality of life and socio-economic productivity.
Early morning stiffness of joints especially of small joints of hands and feet is a common symptom of RA. However, stiffness improves gradually during the day. Pain and swelling of joints follow gradually if left untreated and can lead to multi-organ dysfunction affecting the eyes, lungs, skin and kidneys.
Commenting on the drastic rise of RA patients in Mumbai Dr. Sunil Kumar Singh from Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital (KDAH) says, “There has been a rise in the number of patients with RA and other autoimmune diseases. If not diagnosed and treated early, there is an increased risk of joint destruction, functional disability and poor clinical outcome. This causes a huge impact on personal and social life and productivity. Patients are also at risk of developing extra-articular disease affecting eyes, lungs, heart etc”.