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A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health
and Welfare (AIHW) highlights how important early diagnosis and
medical intervention are in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
'Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects
around 400,000 Australians,' said Tracy Dixon of the AIHW's
Respiratory and Musculoskeletal Diseases Unit.
'The disease is more common among females and in older age
groups and, if left untreated, can cause joint damage and
deformities, especially of the hands,' she said.
The disease can also reduce a person's capacity to work, with
only 31% of those affected in full-time employment in 2004-05
compared with 53% of the general population.
'Medications that help the immune system to fight rheumatoid
arthritis, reducing inflammation and further joint damage, improve
the prospect for patients with rheumatoid arthritis,' President of
the Australian Rheumatology Association, Dr Geoffrey McColl
'Education to help people self-manage the disease also plays an
important role in achieving the best outcome,' he added.
Although management of rheumatoid arthritis centres around
medication, other therapies including exercise, massage and water
therapy are useful. Occupational therapy and surgery can also be
The report, A picture of rheumatoid arthritis in
Australia, uses the most recent information available to
provide a concise, easy to read booklet about rheumatoid arthritis,
supported by up to date statistical information.
The booklet has been prepared jointly by the AIHW, Arthritis
Australia, the Australian Rheumatology Association and the
Department of Health and Ageing. It is the last in a series of
three booklets about musculoskeletal diseases, intended for the
The series will soon be available in most public libraries
Thursday 5 March 2009
Further information: Ms Tracy Dixon, AIHW, tel.
02 6244 1103, mob. 0407 915 851
For media copies of the report: Publications
Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.
Availability: Check the AIHW Publications area
for the availability of A picture of rheumatoid
arthritis in Australia.