06/06/2013 06:15 BST | Updated 05/08/2013 06:12 BST

Rheumatoid Arthritis Sufferers Losing Sleep Due to Pain

The results of a recent study have shown how many people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are losing sleep as a result of their pain and discomfort. The lack of sleep that many sufferers of this condition experience is having a profound impact on quality of life, the ability to focus, and for some people the ability to go about their day to day lives.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory and autoimmune disease, which often affects areas such as the hands, feet, and wrists. The swelling and joint inflammation that can be experienced with this condition can be extremely debilitating. It can also result in a lot of pain and discomfort for the sufferer. Although many people associate arthritis of any sort with older people, it can actually affect people at any age.

Research was recently presented at the American College of Rheumatology indicating that lack of sleep caused by RA symptoms has been affecting overall quality of life for some sufferers, with women said to be affected on a greater level than men. As a result of the sleep disturbances caused by the pain and discomfort of RA, many patients who participated in the study reported associated problems such as fatigue, a reduction in physical abilities, and impaired mental function.

As part of the study, participants were asked to rate their sleep quality on a scale of 0-10, with 10 indicating extremely poor sleep. The median score for men came in at 2.41 while for women the median score was 3.19. The average age of respondents in the study was 59 and the average period over which they'd been suffering from the condition was 13 years.

Experts in the field of rheumatoid arthritis are now urging medics with patients suffering from this condition to also address sleep issues in addition to addressing the actual condition itself. Patients who are experiencing discomfort and pain as a result of this condition are able to get specialist assistance from clinics such as The Hand and Wrist Institute. Experts have added, however, that in addition to seeing doctors and specialists about the condition they should also discuss related issues such as sleep disturbances that are the result of their RA.

While many sufferers of both rheumatoid and other forms of arthritis receive medical treatment for their condition, experts have recommended that they try and do some form of exercise in order to increase flexibility and help to ease the pain that accompanies the condition. There are various exercises that can help those with this condition no matter which part of the body it affects, including the hands.

Leslie R. Nelson, vice president of public health programs for the Arthritis Foundation's Great West Region, said that it was also important for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or any other type of arthritis to take time to understand the condition. He said that this would enable them to make more informed decisions with regards to treatment, symptom control, and general management of the condition.