PETALING JAYA: Many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers seek treatment too late, resulting in them losing their jobs.
Arthritis Foundation Malaysia president Dr Amir Azlan Zain said at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre, for instance, most of the 100-odd patients seeking treatment weekly were in a bad state with joint damage or deformed fingers and out of job or on long medical leave.
“An increasing number of such patients are coming in earlier, but many are still too late in seeking treatment,” he told The Star.
Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can damage the lining of the small joints in the hands and feet, causing painful swelling, bone erosion and joint deformity.
Unfortunately, most patients with rheumatoid arthritis – the most severe form of arthritis – were those aged 20 to 40, and it was not an old person’s disease as widely thought, he said.
Dr Amir said the crippling effects of rheumatoid arthritis could be due to delayed treatment, patients not receiving proper treatment or not complying with doctor’s advice.
While no statistics are available in Malaysia, two-thirds of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers in the United States were out of job five years from the time their condition was diagnosed, he said.
“Patients need not end up with deformities if they seek medical treatment early and get their arthritis managed properly,” he said.
Dr Amir said joint pain was common but people should seek treatment when joint swelling persisted for more than a week.
Equally affected are children suffering from juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), a condition similar to rheumatoid arthritis, beginning at or before age 16.
Consultant paediatric rheumatologist Dr Tang Swee Ping said an audit of the referrals at the Selayang Hospital showed that parents sought treatment for JIA children late.
This article was published in www.thestar.com.my on 8 November 2010.