Arthritis is a very common medical condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. It’s believed that in the UK alone there are around ten million people who suffer with the condition. Many think it is something that only affects older people, and whilst many seniors do have the condition, it affects people of all ages, including many children. Here are some essential facts and information on Arthritis and how it can be diagnosed and managed.

Types of Arthritis

There are two common types of arthritis: Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Arthritis

Osteoarthritis

Affecting roughly eight million people in the UK alone, Osteoarthritis is the most common form of this condition. It tends to develop in adults who are over 40 or older. It is possible to develop the condition earlier. More women than men will develop osteoarthritis, although if there is a family history of it, you stand a greater risk of seeing the signs and symptoms too.

It can however, develop at any age or stage in life. Sometimes people will notice it has developed after an injury, sports related or otherwise. It can also sometimes develop as a result of other joint conditions, for instance rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

The condition begins by affecting the lining of the joints and smooth cartilage. Sufferers will often notice that movement become more painful or difficult because of pain or stiffness in those particular areas.

After the onset of the initial stages, patients find that the ligaments and tendons must work harder to keep the body moving effectively. After a while pain and swelling are more likely to occur and bone spurs (also known as osteophytes) begin to form.

If Osteoarthritis goes undiagnosed and further damage to cartilage and ligaments occurs, then bone can start to rub on bone. Over time this will distort the shape of the joint and force the bones to take on unusual shapes or positions.

Osteoarthritis is likely to affect the joints in the following areas of the body:

  • Hands
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Spine

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Although less common than osteoarthritis, this condition still affects just under half a million people in the UK.

It’s a condition that will likely develop in the forty to fifty age brackets, though it can affect younger and older people too. Again, it is a condition that is more likely to be seen in women than men, but not exclusively so. Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs when the immune system targets joints, causing a lot of pain and swelling.

The first part of the joint o become affected is the outer lining. Over time, it will spread across the joint, and as with osteoarthritis will cause pain, swelling and changes in the shape of the bones and joints. Sufferers might find that bone can sometimes break down more easily.

Rheumatoid Arthritis can also cause issues and other symptoms in other tissues and organs of the body as it is an immune condition.

Are there other types of Arthritis?

Besides the two most commonly known forms of the condition there are seven others that affect sufferers. These are as follows:

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the spine. It attacks to bones, muscles and ligaments and can often mean that joint fuse together. Common symptoms are painful stiffness, swollen tendons, swollen eyes and enlarged joints.

Cervical Spondylosis

This also goes by the name of Degenerative Osteoarthritis. Cervical Spondylitis tend to affect the area of joints and bones in the neck. They can sometimes fuse together and cause a lot of pain and stiffness.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects many different areas of the body and can be hard to diagnose as the symptoms tend to be indicative of lots of other illnesses. However, it can cause pain in the body’s muscles, ligaments and tendons and as such is classed as a form of arthritis.

Lupus

This is another condition that has a vast array of symptoms, and just as Fibromyalgia is, can be debilitating to those who suffer from it. Lupus is considered to be an autoimmune condition that can affect many different organs and the body’s tissues, again causing pain and swelling to the joints plus mobility issues.

Gout

This is a form of arthritis which occurs when there is too much Uric Acid in the body. Many years ago, it was a condition that in particular upper class men would suffer from if they drank too much heavy alcohol such as port, or other spirits. The Uric Acid gathers and collects in the joints more often than not affecting the toes. It can however, develop in any joint of the body and causes pain, redness and swelling.

Psoriatic Arthritis

This is a little-known condition which goes hand in hand with those people who also suffer from the skin condition psoriasis. The two are linked and patients who have one can sometimes (but not always) develop the other

Enteropathic Arthritis

This is another form of inflammatory arthritis which is often associated with patients who suffer from IBD (otherwise known as inflammatory bowel disease). The two most commonly known forms of this illness are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. It’s estimated that about one in five people who have these conditions will go on to develop Enteropathic Arthritis. Again, the most commonly affected areas affected are the limb joints and the spine.

What are the symptoms of Arthritis?

Depending on the form of arthritis you have, your symptoms will vary. This is why medical experts advise that you get a proper diagnosis and treatment. If you find you are suffering from any of the below, seek out a medical opinion as soon as you can.

  • Pain, stiffness or tenderness in the joints
  • Joint inflammation
  • Reduction in movement or general pain/discomfort when moving
  • Red, painful skin around the affected joint
  • Muscle wastage
  • Weakening of limbs

Is it possible to treat Arthritis?

Whilst there is sadly no cure for the condition, it is possible to manage it with various treatments. These will help manage pain, discomfort and in some instances can slow down how quickly the condition develops.

Depending on the type of arthritis you have and how much pain you are in, you may be prescribed or offered the following forms of treatment:

Painkillers

These will take the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (otherwise known as (NSAIDs). Sometimes corticosteroid are prescribed too.

If your arthritis is particularly severe or debilitating, then surgery might be recommended.

Surgery

This can take the form of arthroplasty (which is known as joint replacement), arthrodesis (this is also called joint fusion) or osteotomy (this is where a bone is cut and re-aligned)

Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis will be slightly different as its main aim is to slow down the condition’s progress and to help minimise joint inflammation and pain/swelling. You may be offered the following:

Medication

Sometimes analgesics are prescribed if the pain is moderate to severe. Often other medications called disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are given too.

With both main forms of arthritis, it is often recommended that patients also look to their diet and maintain a healthy, well balanced program of nutrition combined with gentle exercise to help with mobility. Doctors recommend that if you are overweight, you try and manage your condition with the appropriate diet and exercise regimen in place too.

If you think you might be suffering from any of the above symptoms, seek medical help as soon as possible.