As the burden of arthritis prevalence continues to rise in Africa’s most populous nation, healthcare professionals have called for the management of the condition to prevent disease progression.
They also called for interventions on self-management, early diagnosis, and increased awareness of the different types of arthritis and the need to enlighten the public on the management of rheumatoid arthritis as the commonest autoimmune arthritis in Nigeria.
Arthritis is an inflammatory joint disorder, which affects the joints tissues around the joint and other connective tissues, causing joint pain and stiffness.
The prevalence of arthritis according to the Nigerian Orthopaedic Association (NOA) says 1.5 million Nigerians suffer from the disease.
Although it is unclear how health service access influences current estimations and whether prevalence varies across the diagnosis possibilities of time, age, and person.
Factors such as under-resourced healthcare infrastructure and limited clinical expertise might affect access to diagnostic services, with considerable variability in the prevalence of existing types of arthritis.
Africa estimates six types of arthritis prevalence; namely rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Understanding how certain factors affect arthritis prevalence can help to identify inequities in diagnostic access. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
At 27 years old, Bunmi Badejo (not her real name) started experiencing pain and stiffness in her joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and every morning the stiffness became worse. For a young woman who works, the pain is unexplainable.
“Rheumatoid arthritis is autoimmune that develops because certain cells of the immune system malfunction and attack the joints. This leads to inflammation the of joints.”
“I have been living with it for 3 years now, initially, I did not understand what caused such pain. We had a family history of rheumatic pains,” said Badejo.
“Constant medication and visiting the doctor has really helped in managing this condition, even when I had difficulty walking sometimes.”
In diagnosing Rheumatoid arthritis, certain abnormalities may appear in laboratory tests, and physical symptoms such as swollen joints are pains may exhibit.
For people suffering from this disease diet and exercise is very important to reduce the pain. However, Osteoarthritis (OA) is characterised by degeneration of the joints such as the knee and the hip.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis arises from the combination of genetics and environmental factors and is common in children under the age of 16. Females seem to be more affected than males. Diagnosis is based on medical life-threatening, physical and medical examination and for correct diagnosis, a blood test is helpful.
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis affecting people with psoriasis, with chronic skin condition as patches of irritated, inflamed red skin that are often covered with white scales.
Young adulthood between the ages of 30 and 50 but both conditions may occur at any age. Being overweight can increase the risk of the disease, so losing weight can help make psoriasis less severe.
Other types of arthritis are Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the spine but also joints and limited spinal and chest wall movements. Gouty arthritis, or simply gout, is associated with the deposition of monosodium urate crystals in the tissues and joints.
The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. Treatments differ depending on the type of arthritis. The main goals of arthritis treatments are to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
Studies have shown that there are several surgical and medical solutions on the prospect that can be used to manage these different types of arthritis and there are new joint replacement surgeries that have proven to be very effective with high success rates and good durability.
Also, painkillers and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and injections, new types of stem cell injections show hopeful results for treatment.
“Persons suffering from this disease are still faced with challenges in disease management and high case fatality rates due to factors such as poverty, low awareness, and knowledge,” said Larne Yusuf, a medical practitioner based in Lagos.
Yusuf added that the causes of most arthritis remain unknown, although genetic, immunological, and environmental factors. “There are also factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, insufficient physical activity, lack of awareness, and some job-related experiences that can predispose a person to this disease.”
Also, as an intervention addressing this menace, Pfizer has intensified efforts at raising awareness about as well as enlightening the public about the management of rheumatoid arthritis.
“RA remains one of the most common rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases in the region. There is hope as Pfizer is committed to raising awareness around the treatments available,” says Kodjo Soroh, country medical director of Pfizer East and West Africa at a recently organised media roundtable to highlight the disease’s burden in Nigeria.
According to Soroh, Pfizer wants to work closely with the healthcare community to ensure early diagnosis, increased patient access, and medication adherence.
“There is Project Afya, a patient assistance programme aimed at improving access to life-saving medications and boosting cancer care and autoimmune disease management.
“In partnership with IQVIA, the platform is helping to reduce therapy costs for eligible patients as rheumatologists identify patients for enrolment into the programme.”
The Project Afya is particularly significant for a country such as Nigeria where research shows that breast cancer accounts for 16.4 percent of the cancer mortality rate, followed by cervical cancer (12 percent) and prostate cancer (11 percent) and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid is a significant medical condition in Nigeria, affecting mostly women.
Project Afya is aimed at alleviating some of the pressure on the country’s already overburdened healthcare system, where large numbers of people need greater access to specialised medicines.
Addressing this healthcare gap will go a long way toward improving treatment outcomes.