19 June 2018
Q. My partner has just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis but she’s only 40-years-old. Why did she get this? And how will we cope?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the second most common form of arthritis and can strike at any age, unlike osteoarthritis, which is much more common in the older generation. There are currently around 400,000 people in the UK, living with RA. It affects women more than men and usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 60.
In simple terms RA is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the joints.
Some of the symptoms you should look out for in your partner include: fatigue, early morning stiffness, pain and swelling around small joints.
A rheumatologist will suggest the best course of treatment to control the pain and ease stiffness and inflammation and will most likely give your partner DMARDS (Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs) to slow down or even prevent the disease from progressing.
If RA is not properly treated it can cause irreversible damage and lead to disability. It affects different people in different ways, so it’s difficult to predict how the condition might develop for your partner. Thankfully, management of RA in 2018 is very good and most people diagnosed can expect to live full and active lives once the disease is under control.
While we have a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive the inflammation, we don’t know exactly what causes RA itself, however certain genetic markers have been identified and there are several environmental factors that have been implicated but most clearly linked is smoking.
To limit the effect of the disease, encourage your partner to keep at a healthy weight, reduce cholesterol and not smoke. Physical activity is vital to keep joints moving and some exercise could help to relieve the pain.
To find out more, visit www.nras.org.uk.
Dr Roshan Amarasena is a consultant rheumatologist at Spire Yale Hospital. To book a consultation call 01978 884523.