Joint pain can be relieved – Business Feature

Help is on hand: Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis are likely to suffer severe pain and  endure high levels of psychological distress and poor health.
Help is on hand: Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis are likely to suffer severe pain and endure high levels of psychological distress and poor health.

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People with rheumatoid arthritis are not just experiencing a slow start to the morning as they stretch out stiff joints.

The soreness and pain can last for hours, which can exacerbate as the day goes on. Sufferers are not only likely to suffer severe pain, but also endure high levels of psychological distress and poor health compared with those without the condition.

A study, issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, examined changes to rheumatoid arthritis management in Australia in the past decade and what is being done to combat symptoms.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, and can cause painful swelling and stiffness of the joints.

The report found that the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis has remained relatively unchanged in the 10 years, and affects around 2 per cent of the population.

The condition can develop at any age, but is more common in women, and in people aged 55 years and older.

People with rheumatoid arthritis were found to be almost three times more likely to report severe pain than those without the condition, as well as 1.7 times as likely to report high levels of psychological distress and 3.3 times more likely to suffer poor health.

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In 2003, a new class of medicine – biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs – became available for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in Australia.

“These drugs are the greatest development in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis,” said Rheumatologist Dr Louis McGuigan, who has been treating conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis for many years.  

“They focus on one path of inflammation, making them very effective and they’re usually very safe. They don’t have many side affects but can be very, very expensive.”

Dr McGuigan said that one of the keys to effectively treating rheumatoid arthritis is for the patient to understand they have a life long disease.

“Treating it is a team effort. A patient needs to be aware of what the disease is about and what the treatments are.” 

Particulary terrible is the effects of the disease on younger people. But what would once be a crippling disease is being effectively treated with new biological drugs.

Unfortunately the cause of this disease is unknown however researchers do know that those who smoke can suffer more severe symptoms and you are twice as likely to be diagnosed with arthritis if your parents have it.

Dr McGuigan said there are 6-8 different biological treatments avilable however at around $25,000 a year, the cost of the drugs is high. 

He said that if you feel joint swelling or stiffness when you get up in the morning that lasts for a few hours, you should be checked.

Patients tend to feel it in their feet and hands and said some people feel as if they’re walking on marbles.

Quick referral to a specialist for treatment is important as the onset can be quite sudden and explosive, it’s not always a progressive onset.

“The longer you go the more likely for there to be lasting joint damage.”