When it comes to dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, patients are facing significant impacts on their quality of life, employment and finding affordable treatment. These are among the findings of the RA in America survey conducted through Rheumatoidarthritis.net.
The survey included members of the Rheumatoidarthritis.net community, with 4,717 of respondents starting the study and 3,561 qualified individuals completing it. According to the survey, 75% of respondents experienced daily fatigue, with hand and wrist pain and general soreness bringing the most discomfort. Other symptoms included difficulty sleeping, knee pain and general weakness. According to the study, 95% of respondents were female and 94% of those surveyed had group health insurance coverage either through their own employer or a spouse’s employer. RA is more prevalent among women than men, the study said. Most respondents also were 45 years of age and older, which corresponds to the average age of the RA population.
Many of the RA sufferers surveyed also are dealing with other conditions, including depression or anxiety at 39%, hypertension or high blood pressure at 33%, fibromyalgia at 32%, high cholesterol at 26%, migraines or other headache disorders at 25%, carpal tunnel syndrome at 23%, osteoporosis or osteopenia at 22% and asthma at 18%, according to the study. A majority of respondents also began experiencing symptoms in their late 20s and early 30s, but were not diagnosed until later. Diagnosis of RA is challenging, the study said, leaving many patients wondering if certain childhood health issues were actually early symptoms of the autoimmune condition.
Disease-modifying therapies are the most common treatments for RA and help to stop the disease’s progression while preventing or reducing long-term damage to joints and related structures, according to the study. Nearly 80% of survey respondents said they started treatment within one month of receiving their diagnosis. Remission is possible, with 34% of respondents saying they had experienced remission. The study also said that 74% of those remissions occurred after medication. But the remissions generally lasted less than one year, according to the study.
Treating RA can require the right cocktail of medications to successfully control the condition and symptoms. Patients surveyed reported undergoing an average of 3.9 treatments, including surgery, to treat their RA. At the same time, 7% of patients said they are not seeing a healthcare provider for their RA because of financial and insurance issues.
The study also examined the effects of RA on respondents’ jobs and careers. Although 37% reported being employed full time, more than one-third of respondents reported taking too many sick days, and 17% reported challenges in getting to and from work in addition to a lack of understanding by employers.
But the condition doesn’t just affect the professional lives of those with RA, according to the study. Surveyors noted a strain on relationships, with respondents believing those around them don’t recognize the severity of their symptoms and 45% of respondents mentioning impacts on their marriages or relationships with significant others.
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