The ache of arthritis

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-11-27 07:29:35

Medical experts are calling for more effective care plans and better education about disease progression for rheumatoid arthritis patients, as nearly half of the patients believe their disease is not well-managed.

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks healthy joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness and, over time, loss of function in the joints, as well as overall fatigue and weakness. The disease can limit a person's ability to perform everyday tasks and activities.

According to a recent global RA patient survey, on average, patients in China experience symptoms for about two-and-a-half years before they are diagnosed with the disease by a healthcare provider. About 49 percent say their disease is not managed properly.

The survey was conducted earlier this year by RA: Join the Fight, a worldwide campaign to increase patient awareness and interaction between doctors and patients. It evaluated the cases of more than 10,000 adults from 42 countries, who have been living with a diagnosis of RA for an average of nine years. More than 400 of those patients were from China.

Experts estimate that rheumatoid arthritis affects between 0.5 and 1 percent of the adult population worldwide. In China, about 0.2 to 0.4 percent of the population, or about 5 million are affected by the disease. The disability rate for patients in China who don't receive treatment within the first two years of the disease is 50 percent, and it climbs to 70 percent within three years.

According to the survey, the situation is typical in many countries, especially the knowledge gaps between what patients know about their disease and how they are managing it.

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