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How to prevent death from rheumatoid arthritis, by experts

Dr. Hakeem said treatment of rheumatoid arthritis should begin as soon as symptoms show.

According to him, lack of treatment can cause permanent damage to joints, heart problems and death.

He said: “This is to decrease the progression of joint disease as its process can cause progressive damage to joints…

“In many, it will mean they are unable to fulfil work obligations or cope with activities…

“Adequate treatment is also important to try to prevent or lessen the severity of co-morbidities, particularly cardiovascular disease, which is still a major cause of mortality in these patients.

“Apart from treating the rheumatoid disease, the patient should ideally be treated by a multidisciplinary team to address other associations of this disease.

“These range from psychological help with anxiety and depression to guidance with physical therapy by physiotherapists or biokineticists and help with activities of daily living by occupational therapists.”

Dr. Ima-Edomwonyi said rheumatoid arthritis affects the small joints of the hand, wrist and feet before larger joints.

According to him, if left untreated, it can cause deformity and disability, with symptoms that include pain, stiffness and lowered functional status.

He said: “This disability can lead to a loss of career and sources of income, a particular problem in low-income settings.

“For a certain subset of the population, jobs in Africa involve a level of manual labour and the resource-starved African states can afford only limited or no welfare support for the disabled.

“Along with the increase in noncommunicable diseases (NCD) in developing countries, an increase in rheumatoid arthritis occurrence could stress medical services already struggling with a high burden of acute infectious illnesses that they may be unable to cope with the fast-changing patterns of disease distribution.

Dr. Soroh noted that rheumatoid arthritis remained one of the most common rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) in Africa.

He said there was hope, adding that Pfizer’s aim was to continue raising awareness around the available treatments.

“We want to work closely with the healthcare community to ensure early diagnosis, increased patient access and medication adherence.

“There is Project Afya, a patient assistance programme aimed at improving access to life-saving medications and boosting cancer care and autoimmune disease management.

“In partnership with IQVIA, the platform is helping to reduce therapy costs for eligible patients as Rheumatologists identify patients for enrolment into the programme,” Dr Soroh said

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