Arthritis is an incurable condition that is a major cause of disability in the UK. In simple terms, arthritis can be described as an inflammation of joints that causes swelling, pain, redness, rashes, deformity of bones, stiffness and a subsequent reduction in flexibility. The most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Many people with arthritis live relatively active lives unhindered by their condition. However this only becomes possible through treatment. If left untreated arthritis can cause severe health problems and must be treated swiftly.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and usually effects weight-bearing joints such as knees, shoulders and fingers. It is most common amongst people over 45 years of age. It is caused by the erosion of the cartilage in the joints - as we age, the cartilage becomes weakened and as osteoarthritis worsens, bones at a joint may begin to rub against one another. Eventually the bones may grow together forming 'spurs' which in turn cause the pain and swelling that is a characteristic of the condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease meaning that it is the result of a defect in the immune system. The immune system produces antibodies that attack an infection, however in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the antibodies are sent to the joints although there is no infection. The chemicals in the antibodies cause damage to the joints.
Early symptoms of arthritis are pain or stiffness of the joints. Initially these symptoms may come and go, but it doesn't mean the condition has gone. If you experience pain in your joints or difficulty in moving, you should consult your doctor.
There are a number of factors that make a person susceptible to arthritis. Family history of arthritis and being overweight are both factors. Damage from sports injuries is sometimes a cause.