Do not give up your job: Keep working despite rheumatism
Around 1.5 million people in Germany suffer from inflammatory rheumatic diseases. Many of those affected give up their jobs in the years after diagnosis. But often that should not be the case. Health experts explain how rheumatism and work can be reconciled.
Many rheumatism patients give up their jobs
According to the German Society for Rheumatology (DGRh), around 1.5 million people in Germany suffer from inflammatory rheumatic diseases. With a disease peak between the ages of 40 and 60, they mostly affect people of working age - with sometimes serious consequences, the experts explain in a message. In the first three years after diagnosis, every fifth rheumatism patient gives up his job. The DGRh therefore calls for open treatment of the disease: If employees and employers look for solutions together, it is usually possible to permanently involve those affected in the job.
As the experts explain, there are various forms of rheumatism - what they have in common is that the immune system attacks the body's own structures and thus triggers chronic inflammation.
In the most common and best-known form, rheumatoid arthritis, the inner skin of the joint is mainly affected by the painful inflammatory process.
"If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis often runs in episodes and ultimately leads to the deformation and loss of function of the affected joints," says DGRh President Professor Dr. med. Hanns-Martin Lorenz.
Pain, fatigue and progressive restrictions on movement often make it impossible to continue working in full.
In order to maintain employability, it is crucial to block the inflammatory process as early and consistently as possible.
What can help those affected
According to health experts, rheumatism mostly uses drugs that, in addition to pain relief, have the important function of preventing or at least slowing down permanent damage to the joints.
Sometimes natural remedies, such as radon heat therapy in warm healing tunnels, help against the pain associated with rheumatism.
In addition, scientific studies have shown that training on the game console, an anti-inflammatory diet and cereals can alleviate arthritis symptoms.
Therapeutic options have improved
"In recent years, the therapeutic options have improved significantly," says Professor Lorenz, head of the rheumatology section at Heidelberg University Hospital and medical and scientific head of the ACURA rheumatism center in Baden Baden.
With early diagnosis and consistent anti-inflammatory therapy, the symptoms could often be controlled and consequential damage such as permanent movement restrictions avoided.
Despite these advances, rheumatoid workers often rely on their illness being taken into account at work.
"It often helps to make working hours more flexible," explains Professor Lorenz. On days with pronounced morning stiffness in the joints, for example, those affected could start working later, and doctor's appointments could be handled more flexibly.
In addition, it is helpful to design the workplace ergonomically and to adapt it to the needs of these employees. In larger companies, it is also conceivable to change the work area to activities that are less physically demanding.
According to the experts, legal support is available for many of these measures - including retraining and handicapped-friendly conversions.
"Above all, the employer is asked here, who has to apply for the aid in close consultation with the employee and the treating doctor."
Ideally, the end result is a “win-win situation”: the company retains a motivated specialist and the employee has the chance to continue to pursue his profession successfully and independently. (ad)