Airedale staff ‘go behind the smile’ to raise awareness of Rheumatoid arthritis
Staff at Airedale Hospital are encouraging people to ‘go behind the smile’ to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an invisible illness that affects 690,000 people in the UK.
If someone breaks their arm we can see their injury and understand their limitations. But for the millions of people who are living with an invisible illness such as rheumatoid arthritis, explaining what’s wrong is another side effect of the condition. Not only do they have to put up with challenging, often painful, and sometimes debilitating conditions every day, but on top of that, they may have to face scepticism from people – friends, family, and co-workers, as well as strangers who don’t understand the illness.
The awareness week aims to help people understand the challenges faced by people with RA. It also wants to encourage those with RA to tell their doctor how they feel and that ‘it’s ok not to be ok’.
Kelly Hayes-Head, Clinical Nurse Specialist for Rheumatology at Airedale NHS Foundation trust says:
“Although there is no cure, there is lots that can be done to help. At Airedale we provide an Early Arthritis clinic where if referred with suspected rheumatoid arthritis you will be seen as soon as possible and where medication is started promptly. We also offer group education sessions and have an excellent multi-disciplinary team including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and orthotics. We also have a dedicated advice line for patients who need advice about their condition.”
RA is a long term health condition that is completely different from osteoarthritis, and people often don’t understand the seriousness of the disease.
Some facts about RA:
- It can affect anyone at any age
- It’s a whole body autoimmune condition
- It affects joins symmetrically
- It not only affects joints it affects organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and even eyes
- It affects 3 times as many women as men under the age of 60
- 1 in every 100 people has RA
How to spot the early signs of RA – have you got the ‘S’ factor?
- Stiffness – have you got early morning joint stiffness lasting more than 30 minutes
- Persistent swelling of one joint or more, particularly hand joints
- Squeezing the joints is painful in inflammatory arthritis
If you have these symptoms then see your GP as early diagnosis can improve response to treatment which in turn can stop permanent joint damage and loss of function.