Arthritis

Arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation within a joint.

In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. The condition affects people of all ages including children.

There are many different types of arthritis that cause a wide range of symptoms. Two of the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK, affecting an estimated 8.5 million people.

In people affected by osteoarthritis, the cartilage (connective tissue) between their bones gradually wastes away, leading to painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints. The most frequently affected joints are in the hands, spine, knees and hips.

Osteoarthritis often develops in people who are over 50 years of age. However, it can develop at any age as a result of an injury or another joint-related condition.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a more severe, but less common, form of arthritis than osteoarthritis. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the affected joints, causing pain and swelling to occur. This can lead to a reduction in movement and the breakdown of bone and cartilage.

In the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects around 400,000 people, and often starts in people between the ages of 40 and 50 years old. Women are three times more likely to be affected by the condition than men.

Symptoms of arthritis

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

Treating arthritis

There is no cure for arthritis but there are a number of treatments that can help slow down the condition’s progress.

Medication can help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

For osteoarthritis, analgesics (painkillers), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids are often prescribed. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended such as:

  • arthroplasty (joint replacement)
  • arthodesis (joint fusion)
  • osteotomy (where a bone is cut and re-aligned)

The aim in treating rheumatoid arthritis is to slow down the progress of the condition and minimise joint damage. Recommended treatments may include:

Support groups

Support groups, such as Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care offer information, advice and support for people living with arthritis.

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