According to the NHS, arthritis is a chronic condition that affects an estimated 10 million people in the UK. Often, the condition is associated with growing older, although it can develop at any age, thus affecting both adults and children. However, many seniors do experience some form of arthritis upon reaching later life. Consequently, it’s important to recognise the signs and symptoms of the condition to ensure you recognise arthritis as it develops.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a disease that can affect joints all over the body, often causing pain and making movement arduous. Some types of arthritis can cause more physical changes than others, including joint pain, swelling, irritation and redness. Others are less obviously aggressive but can damage a person’s joints over a gradual period.
Types of Arthritis
Although there are more, the two main forms of arthritis are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis in the UK, with 8 million people experiencing the condition. It develops when a person’s cartilage becomes thinner, meaning more pressure is put on their tendons and ligaments when mobile. This often causes swelling, making movement slower and painful. In the most severe cases, if the cartilage has completely worn away, osteoarthritis can be extremely painful, resulting in minimal movement. The area’s most likely to affected by osteoarthritis are the necks, hands, back, hips and knees.
Rheumatoid arthritis is essentially an autoimmune condition which develops when the immune system begins to attack joints within the body, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness. This type of arthritis can affect different joints simultaneously, often making movement difficult and causing fatigue and tiredness. The joints most commonly attacked by Rheumatoid arthritis include the neck, shoulders, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankles and feet. In more aggressive cases, the condition not only affects a person’s joints but can also cause problems with a number of the body’s organs as well, including the heart, nervous system and muscles.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Although each of these types of arthritis can cause different symptoms, the most common signs of arthritis are:
- Painful joints
- Irritated, hot or red skin over joints
- Difficulty moving joints
- Muscle weakness
If you start to experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to visit your GP as soon as possible.
Treatment of Arthritis
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. However, depending on what type of arthritis you are diagnosed with, there are treatments available that can drastically reduce symptoms of both forms.
For osteoarthritis, several medications are commonly prescribed to help treat the condition including:
- Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
In the worst cases, a number of surgical procedures can also accompany these treatments.
A different approach is taken to treating rheumatoid arthritis, where the goal is to decrease the speed at which the condition developments and lessen the swelling of joints. Common treatments include:
- Prolonged exercise
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
Living with any form of arthritis can be tough, but with an early diagnosis and the right medical care, the condition can be managed well, causing less pain and discomfort for those experiencing it. For more information about health conditions or for more elderly advice, please visit our health page. You can also sign up for our newsletter to receive updates or get in touch through our social media channels with any concerns or questions you may have.