Around 10 million people have arthritis in the UK and the condition can affect people of all ages, including children. Arthritis is a common condition that causes inflammation within a joint, resulting in pain and discomfort.
There are many different types of arthritis that can cause a variety of symptoms, but the two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects around 8.5 million people in the UK.
Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage, or connective tissue, between bones to gradually waste away, which then causes painful bone on bone rubbing in the joints.
The most commonly affected joints are the hands, spine, hips and knees.
Osteoarthritis often develops in people who are 50 years or older, but it can still develop at any age as a result of injury or other joint related condition.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is more severe that osteoarthritis but not as common, affected around 400,000 people in the UK. It is caused when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys an affected joint which causes painful swelling.
The swelling in turn can lead to reduced movement and the breakdown of bone and cartilage.
Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in people aged between 40 and 50 years of age, with women being three times more likely to be affected by the condition than men.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Depending on the type of arthritis, people with the condition can experience a variety of symptoms. However, common arthritic symptoms include:
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Inflammation in and around joints
- Restricted joint movement
- Weakness and muscle wasting
- Warmth and redness of the skin over the affected joint
Arthritis in Children
Although arthritis is often associated as a condition found in older people, it can also affect children.
Around 12,000 children under the age of 16 have arthritis in the UK. Most types of arthritis in children are known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
JIA cause inflammation and pain in one or more joints for at least six weeks at a time. The exact cause of JIA is unknown but the symptoms often improve as a child gets older.
The main types of JIA are:
This is the most common type of JIA and affects mainly the wrists, ankles and knees.
Long term effects of oligo-articular JIA are rare and the condition has very good recovery rates, however there is a risk that a child may develop eye problems so they should have regular eye exams with an ophthalmologist.
Polyarticular JIA (Polyarthritis)
This can develop at any age during childhood with symptoms being very similar to those of adult rheumatoid arthritis.
The condition can also cause a rash and high fever of 38C (100.4F) or above.
Systemic Onset JIA
This condition begins with a fever, rash or lethargy and enlarged glands. Joints can then become inflamed and swollen. Again, it can affect children at any age.
This type is a juvenile arthritis that affects older boys or teenagers, It can cause pain in the soles of the feet and around the hip and knee joints where ligaments attach to the bone.
Arthritis has no cure but there are a number of treatments that can help slow it down and relieve the symptoms:
- Analgesics (painkillers)
- Non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
In more severe cases surgery may be recommended such as:
- Arthroplasty (joint replacement
- Arthodesis (joint fusion)
- Osteomy – where the bone is cut and re-aligned
Arthritis Support Groups