October 12 is World Arthritis Day. To raise awareness of the condition, as well as the importance of early diagnosis, here are some facts and figures on rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) as well as symptoms to look out for to catch them as early as possible.
* RMDs are commonly classified into inflammatory and non-inflammatory types.Common non-inflammatory RMDs consist of degenerative spine diseases, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia.
* Common inflammatory RMDs consist of rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, connective tissue diseases and polymyalgia rheumatica.
* RMDs affect both men and women of all ages, including children and babies.
* However, some RMDs are more common among certain populations. For example, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, fibromyalgia, and lupus predominantly affect women. Spondyloarthropathies and gout are more common in men.
* RMDs are the biggest cause of sick leave and premature retirement worldwide. If left untreated, some RMDs may reduce life expectancy.
* In some cases, RMDs can be hereditary, however a family history of RMDs does not mean you will inevitably get an RMD.
* RMDs can also be triggered by lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive weight, sedentary lifestyles, increasing age and having occupations that lead to injury and overuse of joints/muscles, however in some cases the causes are unknown.
* RMDs are associated with a wide range of symptoms, including inflammation indicated by joint swelling, stiffness, redness, and/or warmth, persistent muscle and joint pain, tenderness, extreme fatigue, lack of energy, weakness, or a feeling of malaise, stiffness and restricted range in movement or flexibility, joint deformity, symptoms affecting the internal organs, and invisible symptoms e.g., depression and anxiety.
* If you notice any RMD symptoms then it is vital to make an appointment for an assessment by a physician, preferably a specialist rheumatologist, as early as possible to access appropriate treatment.
* Early medical treatment of inflammatory RMDs, particularly in the first 12 weeks, can prevent joint and organ damage, improve long-term function, and increase the likelihood of achieving disease remission.
* Treatment for RMDs typically focuses on managing the condition to ensure the best possible quality of life. There is no single medication or treatment that works for everyone. However, there are treatments, including medication, that help manage pain and control RMD symptoms. Physiotherapy is often advised to reduce the symptoms of certain RMDs.
* The prevalence of clinical anxiety and depression in those with RMDs is about twice that seen in the general population -- therefore psychological support may also be required.