Arthritis 

Introduction 

Arthritis: Paul's story

Arthritis causes pain and inflammation of the joints and bones. Paul Casimir has been living with arthritis for half his life, but he doesn't let it stop him doing the things he enjoys.

Other types of arthritis

There are over 200 different types of rheumatic diseases (conditions that cause aches and pains in a person’s bones, joints and muscles).

Some of the most common types of arthritis include:

  • ankylosing spondylitis - a chronic (long-term) type of arthritis that affects the bones, muscles and ligaments of the spine
  • cervical spondylitis - also known as degenerative osteoarthritis, cervical spondylitis affects the joints and bones in the neck
  • fibromyalgia - a condition that causes pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as all over the body
  • lupus - a chronic (long-term) condition that causes inflammation in the body's tissues
  • gout - a type of arthritis that usually affects the big toe, but can develop in any joint in the body
  • psoriatic arthritis- joint inflammation that affects people with the skin condition, psoriasis
  • reactive arthritis - can cause inflammation of the joints, eyes, and urethra (the tube that runs from the bladder through the penis in men, or vulva in women, through which urine is passed)
  • secondary arthritis- a type of arthritis that can develop after a joint injury; it sometimes occurs many years after the injury
  • polymyalgia rheumatica - a condition where the immune system attacks healthy tissue, causing muscle pain, stiffness and joint inflammation

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation (swelling) of the joints and bones. The main symptoms of  arthritis include:

  • pain
  • stiffness
  • restricted movements of the joints
  • inflammation and swelling
  • warmth and redness of the skin over the joint

In the UK, arthritis is a very common condition, affecting over nine million people.

The most common forms of arthritis are:

The characteristics of these two conditions are discussed below. Other types of arthritis are listed in the box, below left.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK, affecting an estimated 8.5 million people.

In people affected by osteoarthritis, the cartilage (connective tissue) between their bones gradually wastes away (degenerates), leading to painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints. The most frequently affected joints are in the:

  • hands
  • spine
  • knees
  • hips

Osteoarthritis often develops in people who are over 50 years of age. However, it can develop at any age as a result of an injury or another joint-related condition.

The cause of osteoarthritis is not fully understood. One theory is that some people are genetically predisposed to developing osteoarthritis, which means that they have an increased likelihood of inheriting it from their parents. However, this theory has not yet been proven.

See the Health A-Z topic about Osteoarthritis for more information and advice about the condition.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a more severe, but less common, form of arthritis than osteoarthritis. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the affected joints, causing pain and swelling to occur. This can lead to a reduction in movement and the breakdown of bone and cartilage.

In the UK, rheumatoid arthritis affects around 350,000 people, and it often starts between 40 and 50 years of age. Women are three times more likely to be affected by the condition than men.

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a fault in the immune system (the body’s natural defence against illness and infection) that makes the body attack its own tissues. The fault may be inherited genetically (passed on from a family member).

See the Health A-Z topic about Rheumatoid arthritis for more information and advice about the condition.

Arthritis and children

Arthritis is often associated with older people, but sometimes it can also affect children. This is known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). However, JIA is uncommon, affecting about one in 1,000 children.

The main types of JIA are discussed briefly below.

Oligo-articular JIA

Oligo-articular JIA is the most common type of JIA. It affects four or fewer joints in the body, most commonly in the knees, ankles and wrists.
Oligo-articular JIA has good recovery rates and long-term effects are rare.

However, there is a risk that children with the condition may develop eye problems, so it is advised that they should have regular eye checks with an eye care specialist (ophthalmologist).

Polyarticular JIA (or polyarthritis)

Polyarticular JIA (or polyarthritis) is type of JIA that affects five or more joints. It can develop at any age during childhood.

The symptoms of polyarticular JIA are similar to those of adult rheumatoid arthritis. The condition is often accompanied by a rash and a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above.

Systemic onset JIA

Systemic onset JIA begins with symptoms such as a fever, rash, lethargy (a lack of energy) and enlarged glands. Later on, joints may become swollen and inflamed. Like polyarticular JIA, systemic onset JIA can affect children of any age.

Enthesitis-related arthritis

Enthesitis-related arthritis is a type of juvenile arthritis that affects older boys or teenagers. The condition can cause pain in the soles of the feet and around the knee and hip joints, where the ligaments attach to the bone.

More information about arthritis in children can be found on the Arthritis Care website.

Outlook

There is no cure for arthritis, but there are a number of treatments that can help to slow down the condition’s progress. Medication can help to relieve the symptoms of arthritis and, in severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

For osteoarthritis, analgesics (painkillers), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroids are often prescribed. In very severe cases, surgical procedures may be recommended such as:

  • arthroplasty (joint replacement therapy
  • arthodesis (joint fusion)
  • osteotomy (the addition or removal of bone)

See the Health A-Z topic about Osteoarthritis - treatment for more information about how the condition is treated.

In treating rheumatoid arthritis, the aim is to slow down the condition’s progress and minimise joint damage. Treatments that may be recommended for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • analgesics (painkillers)
  • disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • physiotherapy
  • regular exercise

See the Health A-Z topic about Rheumatoid arthritis - treatment for more information about how the condition is treated.

Find and choose a hospital for arthritis.

Support groups

There are several support groups, such as Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care that offer advice and support for people with arthritis and their families.

Find arthritis services in your area.

  • show glossary terms
Joints
Joints are the connection point between two bones that allow movement.
Spine
The spine supports the skeleton and surrounds and protects the delicate spinal cord and nerves. It is made up of 33 bones called the vertebrae.
Pain
Pain is an unpleasant physical or emotional feeling that your body produces as a warning sign that it has been damaged.
Inflammation
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
Chronic
Chronic usually means a condition that continues for a long time or keeps coming back.

Last reviewed: 07/04/2010

Next review due: 07/04/2012

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kels62 said on 10 February 2011

I'm confused I've had blood tests that confirmed inflammation which is my hips. I have xrays which confirmed this and had the results today. All that was said by one dr its just gen wear and tear. Nothing unusual dont see any need for any ops. I told him I have a lot of pain sometimes. I get very stiff. All have problems sleeping because of it. Was told to take pain killers and lose weight.
The other dr who saw my xray has refered me to a Rheumatologist I'm waiting for an app.This is effecting my life in gen includding my work.It has got worse within the last year. I have explained this. I do take various tabs for the joins have been for a year. Two diff things two drs..I will be going to see what specialist has to say.

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Lilu said on 06 February 2011

Hello!
I'm thinking about moving in UK (after graduating), but there are some concerns with my treatment: I have still's disease(diagnosed in 2010, april, I'm 24 years old). I'm taking now: Methotrexate 15 mg per week; 8 mg Medrol (Methylprednisolonum) every day; and 20 mg Arava(Leflunomide) every other day. In my home (Latvia) first & third medicaments I receive for free as a eligible drugs, of course with presciptions. And how is in UK, about this question?Patients with the same disease must pay full price?
Best Regards!

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coltay said on 02 January 2011

i have arthritis and have been prescribed Naprosyn 500mg (twice a day) I jog for about 30 minutes a day, my pain is not severe most days just soreness and dont think i need to take Naprosyn long term(with so many side affects) but my doctor says i should keep taking it . Will Naprosyn slow the diesese down or is it just a pain killer ?

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lawebstar said on 07 December 2010

im new to this website and this is the first coment ive made, im not sure if i have arthritus or not, but i can tell you now all my joints hurt esp in this winter weather, my lower back is starting to really hurt now and i cant stand up-right, does anyone know of these symptoms and can you point me in the right direction please, thank you.

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ariel66 said on 04 August 2010

Dear Gymrat,
I understand you very well, because I have got arthritis as well. I have had it for 10 years now. It is well treated, so that I am in very good shape, I can say. I am 43 now. Only last year I started again wiht pains in my hands (some fingers always swollen, which I feared so much). This happened because I wanted to plan pregnancy and in order to do that I had to stop Methotrexate and Plaquenil. Then I decided at the moment to stop planning pregnancy, since my health is more important than having a child at all cost.
In July I went to see my previous rhumatologist, who changed my therapy. I am feeling much better. In fact, after coming back to Methotrexate an Plaquenil ( since Half May) I haven't been feeling well as before. My new rhumatolgist (who is indeed a doctor who was curing me 6 years ago) decided to make me take cyclosporine instead of Methotrexate and Enbrel instead of Remicade. (Remicade and Enbrel are both biological drugs which are used to treat arthritis).
What therapy are you following?
I hope you will answer.
Now I have a problem here in England, because I should do a blood test to check the level of cyclosporine in my blood, and the say that I am not covered with NHS ( even though I am a European citizen, I am Italian being on holiday, I think this is unfair).

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gymrat said on 29 July 2010

i was just diagnosed with AC joint arthritis 3 weeks ago, i believe i have had this for a few years now, anyway have had physio and steroid injections. I work in a sports centre i am a qualified gym instructor and also work around the centre but i have lots of flare ups in this joint and i am angry because although i know i should keep it mobilized i can't because of the pain and discumfort the next few days and because i am angry i carry on with the management team, just to release the stress. I am 37 years old what do you suggest

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User63550 said on 23 June 2010

Some GP's have different views. An 87 old lady has athritis and the GP said it is becuase of age. I do ot think this should be the attititue from the GP instead of trying to help them with diet, other treatemnt home visit by the pysiotheraphyist in her home.

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furat82 said on 24 March 2010

What we give to our customers for the arthiritis is only sound healthy natural products. it relives them alot without any side effects and also it also prevetative for any of the predicted arthiritis, which I also use on my self. the products I use lubricates the joints from inside and makes the cartilage so smooth.

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bagpuss60 said on 23 February 2010

well ron the worste thing you can do is jog, the best exercise you could do is, take a nice stroll around your area, and look for another doctor, who knows something about artritis, i myself have lived with it since i was 14yrs old, been in and out of hospitals had replacement joints, ive had a great life done all that i wanted to do, except drive:huge regret: but hay ho ive let it go. i do have a nifty little scooter thats gets me out , i cant walk now, but that not entirely to do with arther, i had a spine op that went wrong, so ron, by all means exercise, but take it easy, its not like when your training at a gym and your going for the burn,do that and you will burn believe me, you will flare up, my motto is if its hurting STOP.and my rhumatoligist always says to me jean i agree with you. enjoy your life. take care and good luck xxx

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Jaxo said on 28 September 2009

I (compound) fractured my ankle many years ago in a car accident and have not been without pain since. Sometimes it is so excrutiating that I can't put my foot on the ground, it also wakes me at night. I have seen a consultant who suggest I have it fused, but I am worried that it will leave me with an even worse limp than I already have on bad days. Can you tell me if I will regret having this done.

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LJKLJK said on 23 September 2009

The term Reiter's syndrome is no longer used, as agreed by international editors of rheumatology journals, and I am amazed that you haven't checked. Firstly, Reiter was not the first to describe the syndrome, and secondly he was a doctor associated closely with the Nazi regime and conducted unethical experiments on unconsenting patients, so should not be recognised in this way. If you aren't up to date with this, what else is inaccurate? Also, rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis, not a synonym for it.

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lararefaeli said on 26 August 2009

Arthritis means "inflammation of joints." Yet when older people are afflicted with arthritis, they tend to be bothered less by the inflammation and more by the pain and stiffness that accompany arthritis.

Many people assume arthritis to be an unavoidable part of growing old. Although aging itself does not cause arthritis, arthritis does become more common as people age, for various reasons. The development of arthritis brings many older people much distress. Jack Benny may have captured a sense of that distress when, as he was being honored, he remarked about his arthritis, "I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either."

Among the different types of arthritis, several affect mostly older people. The most common of these is osteoarthritis. Others include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudogout, and infectious arthritis

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KateSmith said on 04 June 2009

If it hurts too much, then jogging is not the best thing at the moment. What your doctor meant by this is that your condition mustn't stop you from being active as usual. I recommend you to take walks of a certain length and at a certain speed most convenient for you and..... doing USUAL things you did before your condition actually began. I'm myself a person with arthritis being only 31 years old! I wish you good luck!

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ronniemagen said on 16 May 2009

i have arthritis no more to be said
my doctor suggests i go jogging would this help

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