Arthritis – everything you need to know
We often associate arthritis with the elderly, linking aches and pains in joints to the inevitable signs of getting old. But, in fact, the symptoms of arthritis can start in people as young as 40 years old, with thousands of new sufferers diagnosed each year.
There are currently 10 million people in the UK suffering with over 200 different types of arthritis. But despite the fact that there are so many different strains of the illness, arthritis sufferers often go unheard and undiagnosed, as the disease can sometimes show no visible symptoms. But with such a large proportion of the country suffering from the painful and often distressing illness, it’s important for people to recognise potential symptoms and be aware of what services and treatments are available to help ease the struggle. Here’s what you need to know about arthritis.
What causes arthritis?
There isn’t one cause for arthritis and, in fact, it can be the result of several different factors which can ultimately contribute to experiencing the condition. Previous injuries can leave many with stiffer joints, while smoking is regularly linked as a contributing factor to getting arthritis. Those with physically demanding jobs, for instance involving heavy lifting, will naturally be putting their limbs and joints under more strain repeatedly every day, which could be a significant factor in eventually getting arthritis.
The illness is also widely recognised as being linked to your genetic make-up and as such is hereditary. So if your parents and even grandparents have arthritis, it’s important to be more alert to the symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis and affects the smooth cartilage lining of joints, which as a result makes movement difficult and leaves limbs feeling stiff. Some 8 million people in the UK suffer every day with this type of arthritis.
While the main symptom of osteoarthritis is swelling of the joints, other common symptoms include difficulty moving in the mornings, tiredness, generally feeling unwell, weight loss, fever during the night and occasional skin rashes. But, these symptoms aren’t always related to arthritis, which can make it confusing for sufferers to fully understand and diagnose their symptoms.
So, when should you visit the doctor?
Every now and then we might all feel stiffness in our joints, perhaps if we’ve slept awkwardly, overexerted ourselves through strenuous exercise, or are feeling a bit under the weather. But, the crucial tell-tale sign of arthritis is swelling in your joints which can become painful to touch or squeeze. This is when you should consult your doctor, and as ever, the earlier the diagnosis, the better.
How can arthritis be treated?
Early diagnosis and treatment is often the key for successfully tackling arthritis. Treatment varies but depending on the severity of your condition, drug therapies, standard painkillers, anti-inflammatory steroids and anti-rheumatic drugs are very often prescribed to arthritis sufferers. Without one cure for arthritis, many can find that drug treatment keeps severe pain at bay but it might not improve the overall condition, which in most cases cannot be cured.
However, physical therapies are often prescribed to patients, in particular physiotherapy, and are used to improve general fitness and muscle strength. Therapists use specific exercises tailored to your condition and individual needs and this treatment is often combined with pain-relief such as ice, heat packs or massage, as well as drug treatment where necessary.
Signing up to a Plutus Health plan will give you access to physiotherapy treatments to combat conditions like arthritis, as well as other musculoskeletal conditions.
Andy Wilkins is CEO of Plutus Health