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Rheumatoid arthritis: Why don’t patients take their medications?

Tracy French looks at why patients may not take their medications as intended and why this matters

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition, meaning the body’s immune system becomes too active and mistakenly attacks itself, specifically the synovial lining of the joints, causing inflammation. Patients experience pain, stiffness and swelling commonly in their hands and feet, but it can also be a systemic disease, which affects the heart, lungs and eyes. It is more common in women than men and the peak age for diagnosis is around 70 years; however, it can affect all ages.1

Early diagnosis and treatment must be prompt to reduce the chance of permanent damage to the joints, as this will cause functional impairment and affect quality of life and work/leisure activities.1 A treat-to-target strategy1 aims to achieve remission or low disease activity by escalating medication from the point of diagnosis; thus, minimising the impact of the disease. This strategy only works if patients take the prescribed medication. The nurse’s role is vital in supporting patients’ understanding of the medications and advising on how to manage side effects.

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