If you are a woman and are experiencing symptoms of muscle strain, can no longer form a tight fist, and have even found that it is taking you longer to get ready for work each morning, don’t shrug this off as simple tendinitis. See your physician or a rheumatologist. You might have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
“The earlier the diagnosis and the start of treatment, the easier RA is to control,” says Dr. William Bensen, a rheumatologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. He thinks of RA as a blaze that needs to be controlled. Even with today’s powerful drugs, it’s not a disease for which there’s currently a cure.
RA affects two to three women for every man, Dr. Bensen explains. The fact that more women than men get the disease is not widely known. Nor is the fact that while young women can and do get RA, the peak incidence is considered to be age 50 to 65.
“It’s partly genetic, partly environmental,” Dr. Bensen says. “We wonder about stress, we wonder about hormonal factors. We know, for instance, that if you have the gene and if you smoke, it’s more likely to light the RA fuse.”
“The key message,” Dr. Bensen says, “is early diagnosis and the link to early treatment. Every day we see women who have waited before coming to us. They may have been told previously that their condition is just due to old age, or that they are imagining the pain and stiffness. When they come we can stop the disease, but if they have waited too long we cannot reverse the damage that has been done.”
Of the over 100 types of arthritis, women are affected in greater proportions in almost all of them. Women also report consistently higher rates of both arthritis and arthritis-related physical disabilities which profoundly affect their family, work and social capabilities.
Through research into gender-specific therapies, by deepening the understanding of the genetics behind these diseases, and in further investigating if women have different hormone or immune systems that predispose them to these conditions, scientists hope to untangle the gender-specific puzzle.
Source: Huffington Post
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