Arthritis is a common health condition that causes joint pain and inflammation. In this guide, I'll be covering the condition in more detail and will look at ways we can ease pain and manage the condition effectively.
Arthritis in brief
Arthritis is the overarching term used to describe swelling and pain in joints. There are several different conditions that are categorised as types of arthritis, all have similar symptoms. Most cases of arthritis include joint pain, stiffness, weakness, wasting of the muscles, restricted movement and inflammation in and around joints.
Who Arthritis effects
Arthritis affects males and females of all ages. Some forms of arthritis are more common in the elderly and adults age 40+, but about 15,000 children and young people are affected by arthritis in the UK alone. Arthritis is more commonly found in women but is still prevalent in men. A family history of arthritis increases your chances of developing it.
Types of Arthritis
The two most common types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. The most common type of arthritis in children and young people is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).
Osteoarthritis affects nearly 9 million people in the UK. In most cases it begins to develop around the age of 40, though anyone at any age can be affected as a result of injury or other types of arthritis. Again, women tend to be more susceptible to this type of arthritis than men. Those who have a family history of osteoarthritis are also likely to develop this condition.
Osteoarthritis is most commonly found in hands, knees, the spine and hips. It starts when cartilage becomes rough. Once the cartilage starts to thin out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder and extra fluid is sent to the joint. Affects and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
- Growth of osteophytes (small bone shards) on the bones in joints cause pain
- Stretched and misshapen joint capsules cause stiffness
- Joint stiffness and pain impacts wellbeing and ability to get around
As the second most common type of arthritis in the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects about 400,000 people who usually begin to develop the condition between the ages of 40 and 50.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition meaning that the body’s immune system is attacking itself because it thinks there is a threat. This causes pain and inflammation as the immune system is sending blood and extra fluids to the joints thinking it is fighting a non-existent infection. The excess blood and fluids are likely to cause other symptoms such as:
- Periods of stiff and tender joint inflammation that can last for over half an hour
- Joint and bone damage caused by the chemicals in the fluids
- Joint capsules stretched by excess fluids - once stretched a capsule almost never returns to its normal size
- Irritated nerve endings add to the pain
- The pain can result in severe fatigue and restricted mobility
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) affects children and younger people. About 15,000 young people are affected with arthritis of which JIA is by far the most common.
In most cases, JIA diminishes over time and usually ceases entirely before adulthood. For smaller children with JIA, sometimes it can flare up again in the teen years. More serious cases have long lasting effects and can lead to lifelong arthritis. All types of JIA include swelling, pain and reddened joints. More severe cases and different types can include:
- Swelling of the heart, liver, and spleen
- Swollen fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, neck, and jaw
- Permanent joint damage
- Fatigue and limited mobility
Other forms of arthritis include gout, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and spondyloarthritis.
Whilst there is an array of medication, there isn't yet a cure for arthritis. However, there are ways we can manage pain relief.
Lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet and engaging in exercise can be effective tools for reducing pain. Fried and fatty foods exacerbate arthritis and avoiding them will help ease inflammation and pain. Exercise is helpful with osteoarthritis as it helps keep joints strong and stabilised. Maintaining a healthy weight too puts less stress on the body.
Pain relief options such as anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen and creams help both with the pain and inflammation. Acupuncture and laser treatments have also become popular forms of pain relief. In extreme cases, surgery can be an option.
Some commonly asked questions about arthritis include:
What really causes arthritis?
Arthritis can be caused by autoimmune diseases, injuries or infections. It can be genetically passed within families as well.
What are the early signs of arthritis?
Early signs include fatigue, stiffness, joint pain, fever, numbness, tingling and difficulty moving.
Can you be cured of arthritis?
There isn't yet a cure but early diagnosis can prevent it from worsening and there are treatments that help ease symptoms.
Which foods make arthritis worse?
Arthritis can be worsened by frequently eating fried foods, foods high in sugars, dairy, alcohol, salt and preservatives.
How do you check for arthritis?
If you think you may be developing signs of arthritis, see your GP. Your doctor will examine your symptoms, perform a physical evaluation, take an X-ray and do blood tests to determine whether you have arthritis.
How our adjustable beds, mattresses and chairs can help
One of the biggest impacts arthritis has on day-to-day life is the ability to move around easily. Joint stiffness and pain makes everyday tasks that little bit harder and as the condition develops it can severely restrict mobility. Our electric beds will make your life easier and alleviate symptoms.
Electric adjustable beds
Our range of electric beds have an adjustable backrest and legrest. The ability to electrically reposition the bed lying surface is proven to relieve joint pain and discomfort. Raising your legs will also improve circulation and ease swelling. When getting up in a morning, raising the backrest to electrically sit you up will make exiting the bed much easier and ensure you get off to the best possible start to the day ahead.
Adjustable comfort mattresses
The mattress you lie on will make a big difference to joint pain. A supportive mattress that properly contours to your body and has orthopaedic benefits will transform your sleep and minimise the negative affects of arthritis.
Electric recliner chairs
If you spend a good part of your day in a chair, then you need to make sure its doing the most possible to relieve your arthritis symptoms. A recliner chairs that allows you to raise your feet and recline to a lying position will ease joint pain and swelling. A chair that also rises will help you to stand when your joints are stiff.
Versus Arthritis was formed in 2018 following a merger of Arthritis Care and Arthritis Research UK. They campaign to challenge the misconceptions around arthritis and to ensure it is recognised as priority in the UK. They offer support too, visit versusarthritis.org.
National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
Founded in 2001, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) are the only UK charity devoted specifically to rheumatoid arthritis. NRAS runs a freephone helpline, provides information through publications and runs support groups around the UK. Visit nras.org.uk.