Arthritis is so common that most of us will suffer at least one type of it in our lifetime. 15% of the population of the UK (more than 7 million adults) at any one time, have long-term health problems due either to arthritis or related conditions.
Most people over 65 are affected to some degree
The term 'Arthritis' simply refers to a disease where the joints of the body become inflamed. There are well over two hundred different types - they vary enormously in the speed at which they develop, the length of time they last and the amount of damage that they do.
As we live longer, the pain and discomfort of arthritis can affect our quality of life and in some cases can eventually lead to significant disability. In fact, developing arthritis is more likely to be the cause of restricted activity than cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
By far the most common type is osteoarthritis. This is followed by rheumatoid arthritis, affecting just under 1% of the world's population.
The longer you live the more likely you are to suffer from the condition.
As our population ages, the number of people with osteoarthritis has risen. But this is not the only cause of arthritis and it is not necessarily an inevitable accompaniment to ageing.
In general, arthritis is associated with:
- excessive use of joints
- infection with a bacteria or virus
- metabolic or chemical abnormalities
- hormonal imbalances
- problems with the immune system
Whilst most varieties are incurable once they have developed, there is ongoing progress in treatment and pain management which means that with early diagnosis the amount of damage can be minimised and the symptoms controlled.
Written by Dr. Anna Tilley