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Rheumatoid Arthritis Patient Program Launched

The Telegram (St. John's), Sat Apr 3 2010
Page: A11
Section: Local
Byline: Deana Stokes Sullivan
Source: The Telegram

Many Canadians living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) expend so much effort on day-to-day tasks, such as getting dressed or brushing their teeth, they rarely stop to think about how they can better manage their disease, says St. John's rheumatologist Dr. Majed Khraishi.

RA is a serious chronic disease which takes a team effort to manage, Khraishi said this week. While doctors, nurses and pharmacists are all significant team players, he believes "the most important player is the patient. "

A new national education awareness campaign, My Day for RA, encourages people with the disease to dedicate one day to learn more about it and set goals to empower themselves to better manage it.

Resources are available online at, including an action planner, with an interactive questionnaire, to help patients take a closer look at the effect RA has on their relationships and daily living, while preparing them to discuss their concerns more openly with their rheumatologist.

A personal plan can include researching the disease, getting a fresh perspective by sharing goals with loved ones or joining a local RA group.

The online site is supported by the drug companies, Amgen Canada and Wyeth Canada.

Steven McNair, president and CEO of the Arthritis Society, said he's pleased to see Canadians with RA being given more options to help take control of their disease and empower themselves.

RA is a chronic, progressive and disabling disease, typically affecting the hands, wrists and feet, but it can also affect the knees, hips and shoulders. If it persists over time, it can cause permanent damage, including destroying or deforming tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone.

Khraishi said RA affects about one per cent of the population, so in Newfoundland about 4,000 to 5,000 people have it.

"I have around 1,000 patients in my practice," Khraishi said, from all around the island and Labrador.

"The good news is we have a lot of good treatment. The bad news is they have to be seen regularly and we don't have a cure yet," Khraishi said.

If a patient has serious concerns that might be RA, he recommends they should first seek help through their family physician. If their family doctor suspects RA, the patient should be referred to a specialist as soon as possible, Khraishi said.

Patients treated for RA should also be aware and report any changes in their symptoms or side effects from their medications. Some of the new biologic drugs are effective, Khraishi said, but there can be side effects.

Khraishi said RA is considered an autoimmune disease and drugs to treat it actually reduce that immune system response.

The disease is believed to have a genetic component, but Khraishi said there's also a belief it can be triggered by some forms of viral or bacterial infection.

He said he supports anything that empowers patients and allows them to obtain information from the right sources. That doesn't replace their doctors, he said, but it gives patients one way to help manage their disease and find answers.

The ultimate goal, Khraishi said, would be to find a cure for RA as well as an understanding of how it develops.
© 2010 Transcontinental Media G.P. All rights reserved.

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