New arthritis programme sees ME launch
Doha, June 24, 2012
A first-of-its-kind programme to improve the early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis has been launched in Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
The ‘Enhance’ programme has established Centers of Excellence in many hospitals, including Hamad General Hospital in Qatar to promote the early diagnosis and management of rheumatoid arthritis, which affects an estimated 1 per cent of the population.
It has potentially devastating impact on patients, their families and the society as a whole, and late diagnosis is a major obstacle in its successful management.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterised by symptoms that include swelling, pain and stiffness of the joints - in particular the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles and knees.
Disease onset most frequently occurs between the ages of 40 and 60, but people of any age can be affected. It can be a disabling and painful condition, and if untreated, can cause permanent damage to joints, and reduce life expectancy.
Currently, there is a significant lag between disease symptom onset and diagnosis, as well as a lag between diagnosis and treatment, a statement from an official said. However, seeking medical advice from a rheumatologist and receiving treatment early has been shown to significantly reduce the level of irreversible joint damage, as the majority of joint damage in the disease occurs in the first years.
Dr Mohammed Hammoudeh, consultant rheumatologist and head of division, Hamad General Hospital, said: “Rheumatoid Arthritis can be a debilitating disease, negatively impacting patients’ quality of life and their mental wellbeing, the earlier rheumatoid arthritis patients can receive treatment, in the proper setting of an early arthritis clinic, the better the patient health outcome.”
“With the launch of our new early arthritis clinic, we offer a unique and much-needed facility. We urge patients suffering from the symptoms of the diease to seek medical attention, to help avoid unnecessary joint damage and improve their chances of successfully managing the disease, if diagnosed,” he said.
The local hospitals participating in the programme have undergone training and preparations to establish and manage an early diagnosis and management clinic, in collaboration with Dr Karim Raza and colleagues from the University of Birmingham in the UK.
Joining select institutes across the Gulf, including from the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, the hospitals first participated in a kick-off meeting in November 2011 in Birmingham, followed up by a practical planning and training session in late February, all with the support of local health authorities.
As a final step in the pre-launch process, Enhance programme director and international expert Dr Karim Raza, reader in clinical rheumatology & honorary consultant rheumatologist, University of Birmingham, visited each hospital at the end of May to review clinical practice and meet Early Arthritis Clinic stakeholders.
“Through our preparations for launching this center, the local need for early RA diagnosis and care became more and more apparent. Information on RA among Arab populations in the Middle East is scarce and rheumatoid arthritis can often be misdiagnosed. So, it’s important for patients who think they might have RA to see a rheumatologist as soon as possible, and for general practitioners to refer their patients accordingly,” said Dr Hammoudeh.
“Through Enhance, we are equipped to better understand RA in the local population, promote awareness of symptoms to increase the likelihood of early diagnosis, and leverage best practices for more effective disease management, which is expected to profoundly improve patient outcomes in the region,” he added.
Hamad General Hospital recently initiated an Early Arthritis Center. It has since been tracking patients in their disease management and treatment, and will analyse results in the future, to continue to optimise the patient experience locally and across the region. – TradeArabia News Service