Dubai: Residents with chronic joint pains or rheumatoid arthritis need not suffer in silence and wait for a long period for diagnosis for doing so could potentially reduce their lifespan and affect their quality of life, experts cautioned on Saturday.

The warning came on the occasion of World Arthritis Day on Saturday in celebration of the Freedom from Arthritis Day at the Ritz Carlton Dubai. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic disorder affecting the joints of the body, making them painfully swollen that may eventually result in bone erosion or deformity. It is an autoimmune disorder wherein the body’s immune system — its own police force or defence mechanism — mistakenly attacks its own tissues.

“Being in pain every single day is like being in a prison. So we want people to be free of pain and free of this arthritis, or at least learn how to manage it so they’ll be free of pain even if they’re not free of arthritis,” Dr Humeira Badsha, specialist rheumatologist and founding member of the Emirates Arthritis Foundation, told Gulf News.

“Joints are extremely important because they hold the skeleton together. Anyone with rheumatoid arthritis can live an average of 10 years less than a normal patient. Their lifespan is reduced as a result of arthritis,” Dr Badsha said, based on studies abroad.

A 2013 UAE-based study called ‘RA- Join the Fight Survey’ conducted by AbbVie in association with Emirates Arthritis Foundation, found that the majority of patients suffer from RA for at least from 14 months to seven years before getting accurately diagnosed. By this time, the disease has mostly progressed to its mature stage. The delay in detection is due to the patient’s lack of awareness of the disease.

Dr Badsha said RA affects anyone regardless of age but is often neglected because of the misconception that arthritis is a disorder associated with the elderly.

“There are 100 types of arthritis and not everybody knows this. Everyone only knows the common type of arthritis which is osteoarthritis which affects the knees, or the hips and affects old people,” Dr Badhsa said. “But actually rheumatoid arthritis affects young people even as young as children. Juvenile arthritis affects children. And then it can affect any joint in the body from your jaw to your neck to your shoulders, spine, hips, knees, ankles, toes, every joint in the body.”

One sufferer was 23 when she was diagnosed with RA by chance. She said she suffered from a pain in her ankle that no pain reliever could help.

“I couldn’t walk for a while. My bones felt as if they were always being crushed. You can’t describe the pain,” She told Gulf News. “When I was diagnosed with RA, it was a shocker. I thought to myself ‘I’m still young and I have so many things to do’. But I remained optimistic and sought treatment.”

Dr Badsha said a person who is afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis has a 50 per cent chance of becoming disabled and not being able to work within 10 years of not being treated. Treatment options are available to effectively manage the pain and help patients live a normal life. She encouraged residents who have symptoms of chronic joint pains to have themselves screened and treated early.