VIDEO: Do new drug therapies mean an end to the pain of arthritis?
It sounds a bit like dodgy sales patter but the new philosophy at the L&D rheumatology clinic - Get ‘em early and hit ‘em hard – is actually very good news for patients.
In the past anyone diagnosed with the condition, which can involve painful and debilitating joint inflammation, faced a bleak future.
But new drugs and new treatments mean that people can now look forward to a relatively normal life.
The department is so enthusiastic about these developments that they’re holding a series of awareness events starting on Thursday March 14.
Rheumatology nurse specialist Julie Begum said: “We want people to be able to identify the signs easily. It’s not normal to have swollen or stiff joints or be in constant pain. If this is the case, they should see their GP.
“Everyone thinks it affects only older people, but the youngest patient seen by our lead consultant Dr Daniel Fishman is a two-year-old toddler.”
Historically, arthritis was managed with aspirin and steroids which led to complications and side effects. But with the introduction of disease-modifying drugs such as Methotexate and biological therapies, treatments are now directed at specific parts of the immune system, providing a much more focused approach.
Senior registrar Dr Muhammad Nisar said: “We now start patients on much higher doses of Methotexate – our first line of treatment – and they usually respond within six months. If not, we escalate to biological therapies more quickly.
“We want to put them into remission and control it so they can lead as active a life as they did before.”
There are about 150 varieties of the disease but the major ones are osteo, rheumatoid, psoriatic and ankylosing spondylitis.
Arthritis is most prevalent in women of childbearing age and the team sees more than 1,500 patients a year.
Special flare clinics are in place so those with acute symptoms can access treatment quicker.
Dr Fishman said: “We have introduced an early arthritis pathway to ensure regular reviews so we can get the disease under control.
“Once that’s achieved, we start de-escalating the drug. There’s a one-in-five chance that patients will end up disease-free and drug-free.”
Denise King, 46, of Hockham Close in Luton was walking down the stairs four years ago when her body seized up.
A simple blood test revealed she had arthritis and she now controls the disease with a biological therapy self-injected through a pen device.
> See Natalee Hazelwood’s video at www.lutontoday.co.uk
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
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