At Ampersand Health, we have developed an application, called My Arthritis, that helps support those living with rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of inflammatory arthritis, helping them to self-manage their condition. In this article, we’ve collated some of the latest facts and statistics that underpin the state of rheumatoid arthritis in the UK in 2022.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
RA is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that affects the joints, which left untreated can cause debilitating pain. This is the result of your immune system attacking healthy cells in your body, causing the affected parts of the body, particularly around joints in the hands, wrists and knees, to become inflamed.
This condition, left unmanaged, leads to chronic pain, loss of balance and deformity around the joints. Symptoms in adults include stiffness and aching or pain in one or multiple joints, tenderness in joints, weight loss, fever, fatigue/tiredness and general weakness.
What are the causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Whilst we know of different ways to manage the condition, including medication, it is still not clear what the initial causes of the disease are. However, it is widely accepted that both genetics and environmental factors are causes of RA.
Much of the work we do at Ampersand looks to support and provide the right tools for those people suffering with RA, so they can effectively manage their condition regardless of how it came about in the first place.
How common is Rheumatoid Arthritis in the UK?
According to the latest statistics from a 2020 study conducted by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), around 1% of the UK population have confirmed cases of rheumatoid arthritis.
Does Rheumatoid Arthritis affect men more than women?
The study carried out by NICE says “The incidence of the condition is low, with around 1.5 men and 3.6 women developing RA per 10,000 people per year in the UK” (NICE).
As with many autoimmune diseases and for reasons that are unclear, RA is therefore 2-4 times more prevalent in women than in men. Some research suggests this is down to genetic and hormonal factors although this remains a focal point for on-going research.
Does Rheumatoid Arthritis affect juveniles?
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, also referred to as idiopathic arthritis, is the most prevalent form of arthritis in children under 16. It is thought that around 0.1% of children suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in the UK, putting the figure at about 10,000. Similar to adult RA, symptoms include: pain, swelling, stiffness and sometimes a fever.
How does diet affect Rheumatoid Arthritis?
It has been shown that maintaining a healthy lifestyle for those living with the disease improves symptoms over time.
Evidence from one study suggests that foods high in fat (sugary foods and drinks, red meats) contributed to flare-ups, whilst citrus fruits, lactose products and fish lead to a reduction in symptoms.In a previous article we explore the benefits and evidence associated with diet and RA symptoms.
However it is important to note that it’s rare that one course of action can help with the disease and more often it is when you combine several results that you achieve better management of rheumatoid arthritis.
Is it possible to continue working with RA?
Rheumatoid Arthritis can be a debilitating disease and if left unmanaged can prevent the person struggling with this condition unable to carry out every day tasks. It can also lead to loss of sleep, pain or even effects from the drugs used to manage the condition, such as nausea, drowsiness or feeling faint. These can all have a knock on effect on someone’s ability to work.
However, managed well, many people suffering from RA continue to lead a normal working life.
Some days, a person living with RA may be able to work, exercise, and be productive. Other days, the same person may struggle with everyday tasks, lack of sleep, debilitating pain, disabling stiffness, joint swelling, or drug side effects such as nausea, headache, lightheadedness, and drowsiness. If your RA is impacting your ability to work, make sure to reach out to your HR department and speak about what accommodations can be made for you.
What is the mortality rate of rheumatoid arthritis?
With improved management of arthritis, the RA mortality rate (MR) is decreasing significantly over time.
Concrete statistics on the MR as it appears on death certificates is not forthcoming as in most cases, RA can lead to other more serious diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, that are ultimately attributed as the main cause of death.
However, the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network suggests that a person suffering from RA who doesn’t manage the condition well, may have a lifespan between 10-15 years less than average, although it depends significantly on the severity of the disease as well as any accompanying conditions. When controlled correctly, most people with RA have the same life expectancy as those without it.
What to do if you think you have symptoms?
The first step will be to consult your GP who can best advise on immediate next steps, as well as provide any guidance for on-going treatment and management.Ampersand Health’s My Arthritis App is endorsed by professionals across the medical community and can be used in conjunction with m