Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it affects about 8.5 million people in the UK. It is age-related (the majority of sufferers are over 50) but it can develop at any age as a result of an injury or joint-related condition. The cartilage (connective tissue) between their bones gradually wastes away leading to painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints, mainly the hands, spine, knees and hips. Treatment includes painkillers, non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs or Corticosteroids. Losing weight can help.
In severe cases arthroplasty (joint replacement), arthrodesis (joint fusion) or osteotomy (where a bone is cut and re-aligned) may be carried out.
Rheumatoid arthritis is less common, more severe, and affects about 400,000 people in the UK. Women are three times more likely than men to suffer from the condition, which often starts between the ages of 40 and 50. The bodyʼs immune system attacks and destroys the affected joints, causing pain and swelling to occur. This can lead to a reduction in movement.
The breakdown of bone and cartilage is likely to result in pain in the joints, tenderness and stiffness. Symptoms are often worse in the morning. The aim in treating this form of arthritis is to the slow the progress of the condition and minimise joint degeneration. Treatment takes the form of painkillers, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), physiotherapy and regular exercise.
Gout is the third most common type of arthritis and affects around one in 200 adults, most commonly men between 30 and 60. Often said to be the most painful form of arthritis, it is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the body which causes crystal deposits to form in the joints, often the big toe, where blood does not circulate as well. This leads to intense pain, swelling, redness and heat and can also cause kidney stones. There are several risk factors for gout including genetics, being overweight and drinking too much. Some medication, including diuretics and aspirin, can exacerbate the problem.
There are many different symptoms of arthritis and the symptoms you experience will vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. However, common arthritic symptoms include:
- Joint pain, tenderness and stiffness.
- Inflammation in and around the joints.
- Restricted movement of the joints.
- Warmth and redness of the skin over the affected joint.
- Weakness and muscle wasting.
Ignoring arthritis will not make it go away and left untreated, it could end up restricting your mobility. The first step is to establish which type of arthritis you have. Then you should take the appropriate medications and make any necessary changes or adjustments to your lifestyle.
Some people find that a change in diet relieves their symptoms. A Meditterean-style diet rich in oils, fruit and vegetables has been found to help, as have nuts, oily fish, broccoli, avocadoes and berries. Flat, comfortable shoes significantly ease the pain in knee joints and losing weight can also reduce the pressure on joints. A study by Manchester University found that salt baths reduce the painful joint inflammation in arthritis sufferers.
Did You Know?
* Arthritis has been around for millions of years and even affected dinosaurs. Researchers believe that skeletal remains from humans living around 4500 BC show signs of the disease.
Today, in the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis.
Arthritis is associated with older people and indeed the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, often develops in people over 50. However younger adults and are also affected and there are around 12,000 children in the UK with the condition.
There are three main types of arthritis; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and gout.