Understanding arthritis

Arthritis can occur in anyone from infants to the elderly. There are over a hundred different forms of arthritis, the two most common forms are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthristis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammation of the synovial lining of the joint. It can cause aching muscles, tiredness and loss of appetite. This type of arthritis usually occurs in people aged between 20 and 55.Osteoarthritis involves the breakdown of the cartilage padding of the joints. It usually happens later in life and in people who have put extra demands upon their joints such as sports people or overweight people. It usually affects the weight bearing joints such as the hips, knees, hands and spine.

Women are more likely to get arthritis than men and although arthritis does happen to young people, people are more affected by arthritis as they grow older.

How do you know you have arthritis? If you have swelling in one or more joints, redness and warmth in a joint, not able to move a joint normally, joint stiffness, unexplained weight loss, fever or weakness with joint pain then you need to have a check up with your doctor.

If you have been diagnosed with arthritis there are a number of things you can do:

  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight, extra weight can make your arthritis worse.
  • Protect your joints. Use the larger joints whenever possible e. g.use your whole hand to open a jar rather than using your fingers.
  • Keep supple and mobile. Gentle exercise can increase joint flexibility and muscle strength.
  • Rest. Balance exercise with resting. During pain flair ups you will need more rest than exercise and vice-versa when you are feeling better.
  • Try to relieve the aching pain. A hot bath or shower can help in relaxing the muscles.

The are many medicines available to help control arthritis and they can be used at various stages of the disease. Painkillers are the most common type of medicine used for arthritis. These medicines work in two ways, they reduce inflammation and relieve the pain.

It may be tempting to try ‘quick cures’ for arthritis but you should check with your doctor before taking any non prescribed medicines.

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