Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints. In Italy there are about 400,000 patients suffering from this autoimmune disease, equal to one patient per 250 inhabitants.
80% of the patients are women.
If this inflammation used to affect people’s daily lives a lot, in the last few years, thanks to new drugs and to an improved diagnosis, timely and fast, it is possible to avoid pain and to block the process of deformation of the joints that frightens the patients
Professor Carlo Selmi, director of the Operative Unit of Rheumatology in Humanitas, talked about it in an interview.
Stopping the inflammation, today is possible
Patients who get to the clinic are often frightened, and believe that their future is marked by disability, although “today rheumatoid arthritis is no longer what it used to be – reassures Selmi -. Today we are able to stop the inflammation and therefore block the process linked to the deformation due to rheumatoid arthritis”.
The inflammation tends not to affect a single joint: “usually they suffer at least five at the same time – said the professor – and symmetrically, on the right and left sides of the body. The inflammation starts from the peripheral joints, such as the hands and feet, and then expands towards the centre of the body”.
“Over time – has clarified Selmi – the ‘ weapons ‘ that medicine uses to combat this disease have changed and evolved, first of all the biological drugs but also through oral drugs called small molecules, which are taken by mouth”.
“They are very expensive drugs for our National Health System and must necessarily be regulated in the prescription, but Italy is one of the countries where access to these drugs is maximum compared to other countries both European and non-European,” added the professor.
When to be alarmed
The right time to recognize if you suffer from arthritis is in the morning: “people wake up after a period of prolonged inactivity during the night and wake up with a peak pain and stiffness in the joints,” explained Selmi again. If the stiffness lasts a few minutes, there is no need to be alarmed, for example, no one would be able to unscrew a coffee pot when they wake up. When the morning pain and stiffness “last for more than half an hour then you get alarmed to contact a specialist”.
Arthritis can be defined as chronic if it lasts at least six weeks.
“Today rheumatoid arthritis can be solved: if it is true that there are no treatments ‘for the past’ that can heal those who have been suffering from it for some time, it is also true that we have ways and methods to make the patient lead a completely normal life today,” concluded Selmi.