Rheumatoid arthritis can damage and even deform your joints, but an Aberdeen doctor says a quick diagnosis can make a huge difference.
It usually affects the hands, wrists and feet, leaving them painful, stiff and swollen.
It’s an autoimmune disease – where your body attacks its own cells – and doesn’t have a cure.
But Aberdeen doctor Hazem Youssef says catching it early can be crucial.
What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
The consultant rheumatologist at Albyn Hospital says the causes aren’t always clear, but there are steps you can take to lower your chances.
“Current medical thinking believes that genes, hormones, and environmental factors such as smoking can all play a part,” he said.
“It has been noted, however, that a family history of rheumatoid arthritis does not necessarily mean that their children or other relatives will develop the condition.
“The disease can affect any age group, even children and infants can be affected by it.
“It is more common to see the condition in females and is often brought on by pregnancy.”
Early diagnosis and treatment
The faster rheumatoid arthritis is identified, the more likely someone is to avoid complications, Dr Youssef says.
“The main goal of management is to achieve a state of remission as early as possible.”
If it’s caught early enough, this could be within 12 weeks of someone first noticing the signs.
Patients can be referred to physiotherapy, podiatry or even psychology departments to help.
Symptom-busting medications could also be prescribed.
‘Awareness is crucial’
Dr Youssef is urging anyone with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis to seek medical advice as soon as they can.
“Awareness is crucial to tackling the condition,” he explained.
“Patients with unexplained joint pain and swelling should seek advice from their GP as soon as possible.
“Most patients with rheumatoid arthritis now do a lot better compared to previously.
“Many complications which used to be part of the disease are rarely seen nowadays.”