Need for timely detection and treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis in UAE advice experts

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 30, 2015: With the aim ofdispelling the myths associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the Roche Media Academy brought together leading medical experts from UAE and journalists from the region to organize an informative session themed “Pushing through the pain: Rheumatoid Arthritis” in Dubai. They emphasized and encouraged the importance of early detection and treatment of the disease through improved awareness.

Despite significant advances in understanding of the importance of early treatment, management of RA in the Middle East and Africa region remains sub-optimal. There is a misconception that RA is more uncommon and milder in this region.2 This may result in delays between symptom onset, referral, diagnosis and the introduction of accurate treatment.2

A study from the UAE indicated that recommended medications were being used by only 43% of patients at presentation and by only 50% of patients with symptoms persisting for greater than 1 year. The lag time in the start of proper treatment was 1.6 years. 2

“Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic aDr.-Waleed-Al-Shehhi-Consultant-Rheumatologist_Mohamed-Samir_Roch-Medical-Directorutoimmune inflammatory disease which manifests itself in multiple joints of the body, especially the small joints in the hands and the feet. While it affects the lining of the joints, it can also affect other organs. There is no cure for RA, but new effective drugs are increasingly available to treat the disease and prevent joint deformities.3 A major goal of treating a person with RA is to help them reach remission, the point when all or most of the symptoms of the disease have gone away and further damage to the joints has stopped. Therefore, there is a need to increase patient awareness about the fact that if controlled in time, the effect of the RA can be minimized in daily life and in the long term.” said Dr. Waleed Yousef Al Shehhi, Consultant Rheumatologist, Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Hospital, and Al Biraa Arthritis Center, United Arab Emirates.

The forum saw in-depth discussion on the issues associated with managing Rheumatoid Arthritis in UAE and the challenges faced by patients.  Adopting a problem solution approach, the experts spoke about successfully managing the condition through early diagnosis, adhering to treatment regimes, following medical advice and, regular exercising to delay and control the progression of RA.

“Our endeavor is to alleviate patient lives by improving general public awareness about under recognized diseases like RA affecting people in the region. We recognize the key role played by the media to effectively communicate messages that will bring about a positive change in the healthcare scenario. Through the Roche Media Academy, we hope to provide journalists with accurate information and understanding of how a particular disease affects the lives of patients and combating the situation.” said Mr. Mohamed Samir, Medical Director at Roche UAE.

Some key facts by health experts:

Why and where it occurs

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. It is triggered by a faulty immune system (the body’s defense system), affects the wrist and small joints of the hand, including the knuckles and the middle joints of the fingers.

Signs and symptoms 4

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Morning stiffness that may last for hours
  • Firm bumps of tissue under the skin on your arms (rheumatoid nodules)
  • Fatigue, fever and weight loss

 How the condition affects everyday life

  • Experiencing fatigue persisting for many weeks making one feel unwell
  • Prolonged pain and swelling in the affected joints restricting daily activities
  • Inability to undertake physical work when there is a flare up
  • Decrease in the overall range of motion, e.g. being unable to bend or straighten some joints
  • Deformation of certain joints as the disease progresses, affecting movement

Effectively managing the disease

  • Seek an expert in arthritis: a rheumatologist. Expertise is vital to make an early diagnosis of RA and to rule out diseases that mimic RA, thus avoiding unneeded tests and treatments. Rheumatologists are experts in RA and can design a customized treatment plan that is best suited for you.
  • Treatments have improved greatly and help many of those affected. For most people with RA, early treatment can control joint pain and swelling, and lessen joint damage.
  • It is beneficial to perform low-impact aerobic exercises, such as walking, and exercises to boost muscle strength. This can improve overall health and reduce pressure on joints.
  • People who receive early treatment for RA feel better sooner and more often, and are more likely to lead an active life. They also are less likely to have the type of joint damage that leads to joint replacement. 

Raising awareness about the burden and impact of RA on patients and society as a whole, particularly as the disease progresses, could drive earlier referral and effective management of the condition. 


  1. World Health Organisation –
  2. El Zorkany B et al. Suboptimal management of rheumatoid arthritis in the Middle East and Africa: could the EULAR recommendations be the start of a solution? Clin Rheumatol. 2013 Feb;32(2):151-9. doi:10.1007/s10067-012-2153-7. Epub 2012 Dec 30.
  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention –
  4. Mayo Clinic –

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