What is arthritis?
Arthritis may be mild, moderate or severe and overall it is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia, costing the Australian community $23.9 billion dollars each year.
Arthritis is non selective of age and may affect children, teenagers, young adults, middle aged and elderly alike.
Arthritis usually causes pain and stiffness in and around one or more joints and can interfere with basic daily activities such as walking and preparing food. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly, and some conditions also involve the immune system and various internal organs of the body.
What causes arthritis?
Scientists are studying risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing arthritis. Some of these factors have been identified:
- Family history
- Genetic factors
- Environmental triggers are believed to be important. For example in osteoarthritis, excessive stress on the joint from being overweight or repeatedly injuring the joint may play a role.
- Gender is a factor, with women accounting for 60% of all those diagnosed. This indicates that hormones or other male-female differences may play a role in the development of some of these conditions.
What are the symptoms?
Different types of arthritis have different symptoms. In general, people who have arthritis feel pain and stiffness in the joints, muscles or other soft tissues surrounding the joints. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce joint damage, and control the symptoms of arthritis.
Common symptoms of arthritis
- Pain or tenderness in a joint
- Joint stiffness, swelling, warmth and/or redness in the joint
- Difficulty using or moving a joint normally
How is arthritis diagnosed?
A general practitioner (doctor) should be consulted if symptoms of arthritis are noticed. The doctor will ask questions about the symptoms and family history as well as examine the affected joints. They may do blood tests, x-rays or other tests or refer the person to a rheumatologist (a doctor who specialises in arthritis) for further tests.
What are the treatments?
Arthritis can be managed with a team approach.
Learning ways to communicate well with your healthcare team can lead to improved care and a greater sense of control over the condition.
It is important to know that there are many treatments available to relieve pain and stiffness, maintain flexibility and slow the progression of arthritis.
Call the free Helpline on 1800 011 041 to speak to one of our trained health educators for advice on diagnosis and treatment options.