Early intervention is key to helping people with inflammatory arthritis who remain in the workforce, according to a senior occupational therapist, as lost working days and forced retirements caused by arthritis and musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs) are now costing the Exchequer €700m per annum.

There is a strong evidence base that rheumatology occupational therapy can help people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) remain in the workforce, according to Yvonne Codd, senior occupational therapist at Naas General Hospital.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects some 45,000 people in Ireland, with a peak age of onset of 35-45 years. Forty per cent of people with RA leave the workforce in the first five years of their diagnosis.

“Early intervention to support work ability is key. Having the appropriate tools and relevant workplace strategies in place are proven to support health status and work retention,” Codd told delegates at a conference in Maynooth, Co. Kildare on ‘Living with arthritis under 50’. The event was organised by the Kildare Branch of Arthritis Ireland and the Young Arthritis Network (YAN), supported by Sona Nutrition.

“Interventions include ensuring that the work environment meets the posture, ergonomic and joint protection needs of the person, as well as looking at the physical and psychosocial demands of the work role,” said Codd, who is undertaking a PhD on the impacts of inflammatory arthritis on workplace participation.