This week, from June 24-30 is Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week. It’s being promoted by the UK charity NRAS. (National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society)
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a painful autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s immune system to turn on itself. This leads to problems with joints, connective tissues and sometimes organs such as eyes, heart and lungs. It’s currently incurable but research continues into new ways of controlling and slowing the progress of the disease.
Many people know little or nothing about the disease which affects around 690,000 people in Britain and over 1.5 million in the USA, often confusing it with the more common osteoarthritis.
A survey commissioned by NRAS and carried out by ComRes shows that only “10% of people believe the British government is doing a good job of raising public awareness about long term conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis”. The ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ report showed that the British public has a very limited understanding of the disease.
41% of people surveyed said they understood the symptoms of the disease. Only 10% had seen any kind of information displayed in public such as at doctors’ surgeries etc. 48% were unaware that RA shortens life expectancy and only 16% knew the disease affects internal organs.
The report states : “Raising public awareness of the disease is vital as there is a known ‘window of opportunity’. If a person is diagnosed and started on appropriate treatment within 12 weeks of symptom onset, they are more likely to achieve remission or minimise the severity of the disease, meaning they can have a much better quality of life through avoiding severe pain and disability caused by irreversible joint damage.”
Many people believe that Rheumatoid Arthritis is an old person’s disease whereas in fact it can affect people of all ages, even young children. The earlier that treatment is started, the better the outcome for the patient. The disease affects more women than men and the most common age for diagnosis is between 30 and 50 years of age meaning people are having to cope with the disease whilst working and raising a family.
If you think you may be developing the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, don’t wait, go and see your GP straight away. For more information see the NRAS website.