Rheumatoid arthritis is a joint disease that primarily affects the lining of the joints with inflammation. It can also affect other organs in the body and is therefore a systemic disease.
The effect includes pain, swelling and damage of joints as well as loss of function.
Facing the diagnosis of a chronic disease is a challenge for most people. Acceptance of losses includes several psychological processes including denial, depression, anger and eventually acceptance. In the process of accepting the disease, the patient can venture into unproven remedies, and delay proven benefits of modern medicines. Because of functional loss and the inability at times to cope with activities of daily living, the patient may feel a loss of independence and this has an impact on self-worth.
Many patients fear arthritis medicine, and this is understandable as there are potential side effects to the bone marrow, liver, lungs, skin and mucous membranes, and many of these medicines are also contra-indicated in pregnancy. Regular testing for side effects and careful monitoring by a healthcare professional is essential for safe treatment.
Knowing the benefits which are available from medical insurance or medical aid is essential. In South Africa both prescribed minimum benefits as well as chronic benefits are available from medical aids.
Not all patients will experience functional loss with modern treatment. Many patients on modern treatments can still enjoy a full life as well as be able to participate in sport and various exercises. Making life easier around the house and in the workplace can also improve quality of life for patients.
More women than men are affected by rheumatoid arthritis and the modern woman has a job, husband, children and a household to take care of. To prioritise and focus on the more important tasks is advised. Rest is important for good health and more so for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Understanding, empathy, patience and support from the spouse can be improved by communication of the disease, its treatment effects and the functional losses that are experienced.