As per WHO estimations, made in 2004, around 23.7 million people worldwide are affected with rheumatoid arthritis.
The disease can also affect children, which is called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), this was stated by Dr Shabana U Simjee, Assistant Professor of Dr Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) - University of Karachi.
She was delivering a lecture on ‘Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Clinical Presentation and Treatment’, in the video conferencing hall of Latif Ebrahim Jamal (LEJ) National Science Information Centre on Saturday.
The lecture was jointly organised by Dr Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research and Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP) as a part of series of popular lectures for public awareness on common diseases of Pakistan.
Health professionals, students, research scholars, NGO representatives and general public attended the lecture.
The main objective of the lecture series is to stimulate public awareness about disease state and to give them the concept of the medical checkup as an effective platform for prevention and treatment, it was further pointed out.
Dr Simjee said that Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints.
“It occurs when the immune system, the system that protects the body from outside harm, mistakenly starts attacking healthy tissue.
This causes inflammation that leads to swelling in the joints, making them progressively less and less mobile. If not managed properly, over time, RA can cause joint damage and can even result in permanent joint destruction. There are various types of arthritis, including RA, osteoarthritis, JRA, gout, tendonitis, bursitis, fibromyalgia and scleroderma.” she said, adding that in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may start as early as 6 months old, while JRA usually occurs before age 16.
She maintained that the cause of JRA is not known. She said RA onsets in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old, though it can occur at virtually any age.
Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in females and smokers as well. Its clinical diagnosis is made on the basis of symptoms, physical exam, radiographs. Various treatments are available.
Non-pharmacological treatment includes physical therapy, occupational therapy and nutritional therapy but these do not stop the progression of joint destruction.
Analgesia (painkillers) and anti-inflammatory drugs, including steroids, are used to suppress the symptoms, while disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are required to inhibit or halt the underlying immune process and prevent long-term damage.
In recent times, the newer group of biologics has increased treatment options, it was further stated.