PETALING JAYA: Most rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers are not receiving proper treatment as they are unaware of their condition.
Malaysian Society of Rheumatology president Dr Gun Suk Chyn estimated that about 140,000 Malaysians suffer from RA, but less than 5% were seeking treatment from rheumatologists.
“There are currently 39 rheumatologists in Malaysia. Unfortunately, general practitioners are sometimes not familiar with RA, which makes it hard for them to diagnose the disorder.
“Through the Treat to Target for Rheumatoid Arthritis initiative, we hope to improve the standard of RA care and ensure more timely treatment for sufferers,” said Dr Gun.
RA 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.
Health Ministry head of rheumatology service Dr Azmillah Rosman said sometimes the delay in treatment was caused by sufferers who try traditional medicines before consulting a specialist,
“If not treated, RA can eventually cause severe and even irreversible damage. Thus it is essential that those with symptoms seek medical help immediately,” said Dr Azmillah.
The National Inflammatory Arthritis Registry recorded that 48.7% of RA sufferers were diagnosed more than 12 months after the onset of symptoms.
Health Ministry deputy secretary-general Chin Phaik Yoong said joint pains and difficulty in movement made it difficult for those suffering from the condition to work, eventually costing them their jobs.
Chin said this at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the ministry, MSR and Abbott Malaysia at a hotel here yesterday.
As part of the MOU, Abbott Malaysia donated five ultra-sound machines to Sultan Ismail Hospital, Pasir Gudang; Selayang Hospital, Selangor; Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital, Kuala Terengganu; Raja Perempuan Zainab Hospital, Kota Baru; and Sarawak General Hospital.
This article was first published in The Star Online on 25 June 2011.