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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes Unemployment?

July 2, 2012

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Pain, swelling, and loss of function in your joints are all symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but did you know that this condition is also the cause of unemployment? Approximately 1.3 million people in the United States suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis. A new study is showing how these numbers directly relate to unemployment.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system assaults tissue, causing swollen and tender joints and sometimes involves other organs. 1 of every 5 rheumatoid arthritis patients is unable to work two years after diagnosis, and within five years, that rises to one-third. In addition, life expectancy drops by up to five years for patients diagnosed with this condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis patients also have a 50-percent higher risk of heart attack and twice the danger of heart failure. Much progress has been made in recognizing the importance of early diagnosis and prompt and aggressive treatment, but gaps in understanding of the disease remain.

“There are many drug therapies available now for management of rheumatoid arthritis, but the challenge for patients and their physicians is to decide on the best approach for initial management and then subsequent treatment modification based on the response,” Dr. John Davis, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic was quoted saying.

The top goal of treatment is to achieve remission, controlling the underlying inflammation, easing pain, improving quality of life and preserving patients’ independence and ability to work and enjoy other pursuits. Long-term goals include preventing joint destruction and other complications such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

“It is very important to have rheumatoid arthritis properly diagnosed, and treatment started early on. Getting the disease under control leads to better outcomes for the patient, ability to continue working and taking care of one’s self, less need for joint replacement surgery, and reduced risk of heart disease,” Dr. Eric Matteson, a rheumatologist from the Mayo Clinic was quoted saying.

More than medication is needed to best manage rheumatoid arthritis. Educating patients about how to protect their joints and the importance of rest and offering them orthotics, splints and other helpful devices can substantially reduce pain and improve their ability to function. Cognitive behavioral therapy can make patients feel less helpless. Exercise programs that include aerobic exercise and strength training help achieve a leaner body; even modest weight loss can significantly reduce the burden on joints.

Source: Mayo Clinic Proceedings, June 2012