Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation within a joint.
The word “Arthritis” simply means a painful condition of the joints. In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis. People often assume that arthritis is associated with ageing but in fact arthritis can affect people of all ages including children. There are many different types of arthritis that cause a wide range of symptoms but generally they can be divided into degenerative or mechanical arthritis and inflammatory arthritis. Two of the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
DEGENERATIVE OR MECHANICAL ARTHRITIS is a group of conditions where the cartilage, which covers the ends of the bones, becomes damaged. The bone underneath then tries to repair this damage but sometimes overgrows, altering the shape of your joint. This is commonly called osteoarthritis and affects around 8 million people in the UK. It’s more common in older people and particularly affects the joints that get heavy use, such as hips and knees. It may also occur after a fracture or previous damage to the joint.
INFLAMMATORY ARTHRITIS is a type of arthritis where your body’s own immune system wrongly attacks joints, causing inflammation and pain, where joints can become swollen and damaged. A common example is rheumatoid arthritis, which affects around 400,000 people in the UK. 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. Other examples include reactive arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and arthritis associated with colitis or psoriasis.
COMMON SYMTPOMS OF ARTHRITIS
There are many different symptoms of arthritis and the symptoms experienced vary depending on the type of arthritis. 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
Many of these symptoms can be managed at home, and can settle over time. However, if you have persistent symptoms that are effecting your day to day activities, then a consultation with your GP may be useful. If there is a suspicion of an inflammatory arthritis, you may be referred to the Rheumatology team.
ARTHRITIS AND CHILDREN
Although arthritis is often associated with older people, it can sometimes affect children. In the UK, about 12,000 children under 16 years of age have arthritis. Most types of childhood arthritis are referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). JIA causes pain and inflammation in one or more joints for at least six weeks. Although the exact cause of JIA is unknown, the symptoms often improve as a child gets older, allowing them to lead a normal life.