People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis will on average take six times as many days off work due to ill health than others in the workplace. This means they are missing around forty days each year because they are too ill to attend work.
The number of people in the suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in the UK is estimated at 700,000, with an additional 20,000 people newly diagnosed each year. Women are more likely to suffer from it than men, making up three quarters of the adults with the condition in UK. Some people mistakenly associate rheumatoid arthritis only with old age, but in fact at the time of diagnosis, 75 per cent of sufferers are of working age.
It is a condition which affects the autoimmune system, causing it to attack the joints, which become inflamed and painful. Pain from swollen joints is not the only symptom which rheumatoid arthritis sufferers experience. A recent survey by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society revealed that 89 per cent of the 2000 people interviewed had also been the victims of chronic fatigue.
Many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers will end up unable to manage normal jobs in daily life, such are the deformities caused by the illness, and some will need to have specialist equipment such as a stairlift installed in their home. Studies have shown that within just twelve months of diagnosis nearly 15 per cent will be out of work, and of those who do not receive prompt treatment following diagnosis, forty per cent will no longer be employed five years later.
The British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) has stressed the importance of early diagnosis and prompt treatment in order to minimise permanent damage from the condition. Research has shown that treatment given within the first twelve weeks of symptoms beginning is far more effective than later treatment. Failure to give early treatment can lead to symptoms worsening and a rapid deterioration in patient mobility.
The BSR has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the difficulties for people living with rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic conditions. The Simple Tasks campaign aims to increase the public's understanding of rheumatology and the effect on people's lives. It will also promote the need for early treatment.
A similar awareness campaign which was conducted in the United States, proved very successful, so the BSR hopes to emulate that success in the UK. Further information about the Simple Tasks campaign is available at BSR Simple Tasks website.