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A worrying 19,500 women across the UAE are estimated to be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Women's Initiative for Rheumatoid Arthritis (WIRA).

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and this can lead to progressive joint and tissue damage and can affect the eyes, and other organs in the body. It is two-to-three times more likely to affect women than men. Rheumatoid arthritis usually occurs over a prolonged period of months or years, causing progressive joint destruction, loss of physical functions and a loss of quality of life among its patients. If not diagnosed early or left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis may cause permanent disability.

To help build awareness of this condition WIRA are distributing educational leaflets to passers-by at Malls. Until May 10, WIRA will be at the Mall of the Emirates and from May 14-24, they will be handing out information at Mercato Mall.

"We strongly believe that it is best to educate the community at large, not just women, about the dangerous and crippling effects of rheumatoid arthritis," says Doctor Nadia Rashid Al Mazroui, a WIRA spokesperson. "Women are often unaware, and what might be brushed off as normal aches and pains in their hands and feet, is often much more serious. Our goal is to reach these women and help them seek medical assistance before it's too late."

Rheumatoid arthritis is a tricky one to detect. The disease is known to flare up periodically, causing pain in the joints, and then die down again, resulting in reduced pain and no obvious symptoms of the disease.

According to Doctor Jamal Al Saleh, Head of Rheumatology Unit at Dubai Hospital, early rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the smaller joints first - the joints in your wrists, hands, ankles and feet. These can be the warning signs. Through such public activities, WIRA hopes to help women in particular, understand what rheumatoid arthritis is, how it is caused and treated, and advise them to keep active and healthy for the rest of their lives.

For more information on Rheumatoid Arthritis visit the WIRA stand at the malls or visit

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 5, 2008
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