Our thanks to Arthritis Research UK for their contribution to this weeks report and for the information on arthritis below.
What is arthritis? Arthritis is a chronic condition that can have a major effect on a person’s quality of life. It mainly affects the joints, leading to pain and disability but it can also affect the muscles, lungs, skin, and kidneys. It is a condition that affects the joints but collectively they are known as musculoskeletal disorders.
There are around 200 musculoskeletal conditions (it's not a single condition that just affects older people) which fall into five main categories:
Inflammatory arthritis: This form of arthritis is caused by the body’s immune system attacking itself by producing inflammation which causes joints to become swollen and damaged. This can occur for no obvious reason and it is unclear what factors contribute to somebody gaining this type of arthritis but certainly, genetics would play a part and living an unhealthy lifestyle.
Degenerative or mechanical arthritis: This form of arthritis includes the most common type, known as Osteoarthritis which affects 8 million people in the UK. It is caused by wear and tear, as the cartilage at the end of bones becomes damaged or wears away, causing painful rubbing together of the bones. Sometimes the bone underneath the damaged cartilage attempts to repair itself and overgrows, changing the shape of the joint and causing pain. It is more common in older people although it can affect all ages, especially joints which are often used such as knees and hips. It can also take effect at a younger age if there is a particular strain on a joint or a joint is damaged from previous injury or rapid and frequent overuse. You may also be more likely to get it if you live an unhealthy lifestyle and again, genetics may play a role.
Soft tissue musculoskeletal pain: This type of arthritis is pain felt in the muscles or soft tissues supporting the joints and is often a result of injury or overuse, for example, tennis elbow. Sometimes the pain is more widespread and if accompanied by other symptoms, may be diagnosed as fibromyalgia.
Back Pain: Back pain affects 4 out of 5 of us at some point and isn’t usually associated with arthritis. It is possible that long-term back pain could be a result of osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. In most cases, the exact cause of back pain is unidentifiable and is referred to as ‘non-specific’ or simple back pain.
Connective tissue diseases (CTD) CTD affects the tissues that support, bind or separate other body tissues and organ, including tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. It can affect anyone at any age and may further affect the sufferers’ joints, muscles, kidneys, skin, and lungs. Therefore a sufferer is likely to have other symptoms surrounding painful joints.
Most types of arthritis are caused by multiple factors acting together. Arthritis can run in families and sometimes elements of your lifestyle or medical history could further increase your risk, especially if you’re already susceptible to the condition. Injury or overuse can cause arthritis as well as a physically demanding job, particularly if it’s repetitive. Some foods can make arthritis worse so it’s important to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
Living with arthritis can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life. There are ways you can help yourself as an arthritis sufferer such as exercising, losing weight if you’re overweight and looking into complementary or alternative therapy/medicine which aim to correct the underlying problems that are causing your symptoms. There are treatments available for arthritis, including drugs, physical therapies, and surgery. New drugs are being created to treat arthritis alongside existing drugs available to treat certain types of arthritis which can be prescribed by your doctor. Types of physical therapy which may help arthritis include hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy. Surgery is also available to reduce pain and improve function.
Organisations that can provide further help and support (hyperlinks are highlighted in light blue)
NHS Choices is designed to 'help put you in charge of your healthcare'.
Arthritis Research UK is the UK's leading arthritis charity.
The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society 'provides people affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis with information and support'.
Arthritis Care provides 'high-quality information and support to empower you to take control of your arthritis.'
The Children's Chronic Arthritis Association is 'run by parents & professionals to provide support for children with arthritis and their families.'
All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.