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Rheumatoid Arthritis With Dr. Philip MacMahon

Monday, 26 January 2009

One in six people in Ireland are or will be affected by arthritis. Today we'll be highlighting one of these types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that affects 40,000 people in Ireland with 70% of these being women. We'll also be speaking about a new helpline being launched by Arthritis Ireland.

Who Are The Guests?
Dr. Philip MacMahon, Afternoon Show Family Doctor
Ailbhe O Reilly, lives with Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis:

What is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic and often painful disease affecting the joints, causing them to become inflamed. An inflamed joint looks swollen and red, and appears warm to touch. This inflammation can lead to permanent damage in the joints if the disease is not treated.

Does it get worse in the cold?
As the cold weather sets in our muscles tend to take longer to warm up throughout the day. As a result of this they may be tighter around the joints which may lead to additional discomfort for people with RA.

What happens in rheumatoid arthritis?
In rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy organs and tissue as foreign 'invaders'. This is why rheumatoid arthritis is known as an autoimmune disease. The disease usually starts in the wrists, hands or feet, and can spread to other joints and other parts of the body.

How many people in Ireland are affected with rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a fairly common disease; 40,000 people have the condition in Ireland. It affects three times more women than men. Most people develop rheumatoid arthritis between the ages of 25-50.

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still unknown. Scientists are trying to learn why the immune system attacks healthy body tissues. It is thought that certain genes and environmental factors may trigger the development of the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect all joints in the body.

Early in the disease, symptoms may include
. Pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints
. Joints are tender to touch
. Reduced mobility of the joint -initially due to pain and later to joint deformity
. Morning stiffness - the joints are stiff in the morning and this often lasts more than hour
. Fatigue
. Loss of appetite
. Weight loss
. Fever
. Swollen lymph glands

Later in the disease process, symptoms may include joint deformity
. Affected fingers and toes may be permanently bent (contractures)
. Hands and feet may curve outwards

The earlier the diagnosis the quicker treatment can begin. Diagnosis is made on the basis of a combination of inflammation and pain history, physical examination and also by blood tests and x-rays. To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor may refer you to a hospital specialist - a rheumatologist.

There is unfortunately no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are many medications available to ease joint pain and to help limit the damage caused by the condition. More treatments are being developed.

People with rheumatoid arthritis are encouraged to self-manage their condition by exercising regularly, protecting their joints, eating healthily, and by using any relaxation techniques they find helpful.

Other healthcare professionals such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists are often involved in supporting those with rheumatoid arthritis. Surgery is only used in severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis where the individual has severe disability or pain.

Source, /

About The Helpline:
Arthritis Ireland has today (Monday 26th January 2009) launched a national helpline for people with arthritis which is manned by people who are living positively with the condition.

Arthritis Ireland is encouraging people with arthritis, their families and carers to contact the helpline between 10am and 4pm Monday to Friday on Lo-Call 1890 252 846 for the price of a local call. The helpline supports people who have just been diagnosed or have been living with arthritis for some time, their family members and friends who want to know how to support a loved one, and health professionals. Because every member of the helpline team has experience of living with arthritis themselves, callers can be sure they will speak to someone who understands what it's like to have arthritis and the issues that they face in their daily lives.

People can call the helpline for all sorts of advice including how to manage pain, information about specific conditions, options about types of medication and treatments available, identifying what exercise or diet may be appropriate and how to manage on an emotional level.

For more information on Arthritis please visit

About the products on today's show:
A family run business established in 1990 Medical Mobility, Ballaugh, Killarney and Medical Express, Parnell St. Limerick are one stop mobility shops helping people who are experiencing a decline in mobility to remain independent and to live as normal a life as possible. Both shops stock a huge and diverse range of products with everything from small items such as cutlery or sock aids to large items such as stairlifts or rise and recline chairs.

A mail order service is available for those unable to travel.

Contact: Deirdre 086 2308788