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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org

New research to investigate the needs of men with rheumatoid arthritis

Published on 14 April 2014
Source: Arthritis Today

Do men with rheumatoid arthritis have different educational needs to women, and are they currently being met?

A researcher from the University of the West of England in Bristol has been awarded new funding from Arthritis Research UK to investigate this question.

Men with the inflammatory joint condition, which can have a severe impact on their lives, are outnumbered by women by three to one, and as a result much current educational support is designed for the needs of female patients.

Now research fellow Dr Caroline Flurey has been awarded a foundation fellowship of almost £140,000 to find out how rheumatoid arthritis affects men and what type of support male patients would like from their clinical team – the first study to clarify the need for specific support structures for men.

Dr Flurey will talk to around 70 men in the South West area to investigate if there is a need to provide support that is specifically aimed at them.

Dr Caroline Flurey

“Men cope with stress and illness differently to women. For example, while women talk to their friends and family about their worries, men are more likely to manage alone,” explained Dr Flurey.

“From an early age, men are taught to value traditional masculine ideals such as physical strength, physically active hobbies, and work, and not talking about feelings or asking for help.

“These ideals can be challenged by rheumatoid arthritis, which can limit physical strength and stamina.”

Research in other conditions suggests that men can find it hard to ask for help and discuss personal issues of the impact of disease and how they are coping with it, in clinic, but instead focus on aspects of medication and treatment. The reluctance to discuss these issues means clinicians may not realise that some men may be struggling to cope.

Bob Noddings, aged 74, from Weston-super-Mare, developed rheumatoid arthritis about 20 years ago, shortly after he retired as an accountant. He has had hip, shoulder and knee replacements, and his ankles, hands and feet are now affected. He has had to stop walking because of the pain in his ankles.

Bob, who is on the steering group of Dr Flurey’s grant as a patient research partner, agrees that men are less likely to talk about the condition and its impact on their lives than women. He says: “I must admit I have noticed a difference between the way women and men deal with their rheumatoid arthritis. I think it’s true that men don’t go and see the doctor in a hurry and tend not to talk about their condition.

“I don’t talk about it outside the home. I go crown green bowling and no-one knows that I have rheumatoid arthritis; I don’t talk to anyone about it. It’s the last thing I would talk about when we have a couple of pints afterwards! Unfortunately for my wife Margaret, I come home and moan to her about it! She has copped for it a lot over the years.”

Bob is a member of a primarily female group who meet up at the Bristol Royal Infirmary every few weeks. “They talk about their condition in a way that I’m not interested in,” he says. “They bring their own lunch and chat over a sandwich, but I don’t want to sit there chatting about my problems. It doesn’t interest me one iota, whereas some of the ladies think it’s one of the best things they have done. When I go to the BRI I’m interested in what I can learn about, what’s going on at the hospital, whether I can contribute something.”

He adds: “I’m very lucky being a patient at a teaching hospital and, by and large, I’ve had good support from my medical team.” Bob believes he is in a more fortunate position than many other people with rheumatoid arthritis in that he is a patient at Bristol Royal Infirmary under Professors John Kirwan and Sarah Hewlett, who have been leading the way in putting patients at the heart of research and education for many years, largely funded by Arthritis Research UK, and who pioneered the concept of patient research partners.

Dr Flurey’s research project will use a mixture of interviews and focus groups to investigate men’s experiences and needs. If her study establishes that men need their own tailored care, it will provide the building blocks for developing a support package ready for testing.

New survey of rheumatology nurses on managing pain in rheumatoid arthritis

A leading academic nurse is conducting a national survey to find out if rheumatology nurses currently offer the advice and support needed by people with rheumatoid arthritis on how to manage their pain.

Dr Sarah Ryan, a nurse consultant at the Haywood Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, has funding from Arthritis Research UK to conduct an electronic survey via the Royal College of Nursing to establish if nurses feel they have the knowledge and confidence to help patients cope with pain.

“People with rheumatoid arthritis can have times when the pain of their condition is difficult to manage,” said Dr Ryan. “Many people see a rheumatology nurse to monitor their condition, and this could be an ideal opportunity for the nurse to discuss how a patient is managing their pain and provide advice and support if required.”

The findings from the study will help identify the areas where nurses lack the knowledge or confidence to help patients manage pain and will lead to training and guidance being provided.

Practice nurses and others working in primary care may be interested in a new online degree module 'Assessing and managing patients with joint pain,’ developed by Education for Health and Arthritis Research UK and accredited by The Open University. Bursaries are available. Find out more on our Education for Health page.

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