If I Have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Which Doctor Should I Approach For Treatment?
Did you know we need at least 10,000 rheumatologists for the Indian population and we have no more than 1300 or 1400 rheumatologists at present?! Know more facts about rheumatoid arthritis.
It is best if RA is diagnosed within the first three months of the symptoms
- RA must always be treated by a rheumatologist
- In RA, Life expectancy reduces by 17 years in women, 10 years in men
- It is also important to eat a balanced and healthy diet in RA
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder which primarily affects the person by causing pain and stiffness of the joints, especially in the morning, according to Dr KM Mahendranath. It makes it difficult for a person to perform day-to-day activities like opening a glass jar or a cupboard, turning a key, etc.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually occurs to people in their thirties and forties. It can also occur in children when we call it juvenile inflammatory arthritis. An aggressive form of arthritis occurs to people in their 50s and above. Adding to this, here's what Dr KM Mahendranath had to say:
What is the prevalence of RA in India?
We may roughly have somewhere around 1 crore patients of rheumatoid arthritis in the country. This number is quite significant in a country like India.
Is RA hereditary?
Hereditary factor for RA is approximately 15%.
Why is it important to seek timely treatment for RA?
If rheumatoid arthritis goes unchecked, it may result in physical deformities. It can cause a major burden on the family and society Besides, the condition may also affect other systems of the body like the cardiovascular system, lungs and kidneys.
How is rheumatoid arthritis treated?
Medication plays a very important role in terms of treating RA. There are two kinds of medications involved in treatment of RA: 1) simple painkillers for the relief in pain and stiffness; 2) Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD).
Apart from medication, it is very important for RA patients to exercise and do some physiotherapy. It helps in preventing deformities and disabilities in the patient.
It is also important to eat a balanced and healthy diet. An unhealthy diet and lack of exercise can make a person gain weight, which will in turn increase the dosage of medicines as well. This is because RA medicines are prescribed as per kg of the body weight. Also, RA can become more severe in case a person is overweight.
Which is the appropriate doctor to visit in case of RA?
It is quite unfortunate that there is very less awareness about Rheumatology and Rheumatologist. RA must always be treated by a specialised Rheumatologist only. A carpenter only can do a carpenter's job, and similarly an electrician and a plumber. Only a Rheumatologist is well trained and qualified to treat RA.
But, the number of Rheumatologists in the country are very low. We need at least 10,000 rheumatologists for the Indian population and we have no more than 1300 or 1400 rheumatologists at present.
What is the survival rate of RA?
In case of uncontrolled RA, the life expectancy reduces by 17 years among women and 10 years among men because they tend to get strokes and heart attacks more frequently. As the patient gets older, the blood vessels begin to clog (atherosclerosis).
RA can affect other organs like lungs and kidneys. 1 in 20 people with RA get lung disease known as interstitial lung disease.
RA must always be treated by a specialised Rheumatologist only. A carpenter only can do a carpenter's job, and similarly an electrician and a plumber. Only a Rheumatologist is well trained and qualified to treat RA."
Dr. KM MahendranathFormer president of Indian Rheumatology Association
A person suffering from RA is likely to wake up with stiff joints in the morning. They experience severe pain in different joints of the body like joints of hands, wrists, elbows, foot and ankle joints. They also experience visible swelling in these joints"
Timely diagnosis is important to control RA
It is best if RA is diagnosed within the first three months of the symptoms occurring and the Rheumatologist can aim at curing the disease when it is diagnosed this early.
[Dr KM Mahendranath is former president of Indian Rheumatology Association. He has 42 years of experience in Rheumatology and has been honoured for his contribution to rheumatology by bythe British Society of Rheumatology, the American College of Rheumatology, the Asia Pacific League of Rheumatolgy, Indian Rheumatology Association and the Bone and Joint Decade (WHO).]
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