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A global survey reveals that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has a severe emotional and physical impact on people living with the disease and their families.
Feelings of detachment and isolation from those closest to them due to RA are especially prevalent at Christmas, which should be one of the happiest times of the year.
The survey findings of 1,958 women with RA from seven countries worldwide, suggest that 35% of women living with RA feel the disease impacts on their enjoyment of family events during the festive season.
The survey, sponsored by biopharmaceutical company UCB, highlights that 23% of women living with RA find it always painful, more difficult or have stopped attending parties or celebrations due to their condition, and 44% of women with moderate to severe RA report they don’t enjoy family events such as Christmas as much as they used to. Even amongst young women (25 – 35 year olds), 28% feel their enjoyment of family events is restricted due to their RA.
Personal relations are also impacted by RA with one third of women believing the condition affects their closest relationships for the worse, and more than half feel that friends and family do not understand their pain.
“The holidays are an occasion to spend fun quality time with family and friends, not a period for anxiety due to busy schedules, social gatherings, and the pain associated with over activity. However, for many women living with RA this isolation and pain is a common feeling,” said Dr Vibeke Strand, Adjunct Clinical Professor, Division of Immunology/Rheumatology of Stanford University School of Medicine.
“More often, many prefer to hide their degree of pain and discomfort from family and friends to avoid hindering the festive celebrations which can lead to a feeling of isolation.”
Daily pain is an issue – 63% of respondents live with pain – this can be exacerbated by the dexterity needed for even the simplest of Christmas tasks which is illuminated by the survey with 28% of moderate to severe RA respondents always experiencing pain, find it more difficult or have stopped writing cards altogether.
Shopping for gifts, preparing food, writing cards and wrapping presents are the four festive activities that women living with RA find most difficult to do. Among these women, 28% experience pain and difficulty when shopping for gifts, or have stopped altogether, and more than a quarter report it painful to prepare festive food.
“Nearly two thirds of women living with RA experience pain every day which can be more intense during busy times of the year, such as Christmas and this can seriously impact a patient’s enjoyment of the festive season. Almost half of patients included in the survey are not talking to their physician about pain control options which is imperative to enable them to take control of their pain, especially around Christmas when pain can be a considerable issue. This will ensure that more patients achieve a pain free ‘good day’ and ultimately improve their quality of life.” Said Professor Paul Emery, Professor of Rheumatology, University of Leeds.
In light of these survey findings UCB has developed the “12 Tips of Christmas” with tips on how to manage and enjoy the hectic holiday season. Please contact the people below for the full guide that details 12 tips to embrace and enjoy the countdown to Christmas.