Arthritis can affect people of all ages
Arthritis affects our joints. It causes damage to the joint structure and surrounding tissue, as well as considerable pain and physical disability. We tend to associate arthritis with old age but it can affect people of all ages, even babies and children. The condition is more common with females than males. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, and half a million New Zealanders will have the disease at some stage in their lives.
A normal healthy joint has a rubbery substance called cartilage that covers the end of each bone and provides a smooth slippery surface against which the joints move. Cartilage also acts as a shock absorber to reduce the impact of everyday physical activity. With arthritis, the joints are swollen and stiff (which is worse after rest and improved by gentle regular movement). As well as joint deformity, there is pain, redness and heat. The pain gets worse with activity, and is relieved by rest. Although there are many forms, the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) affects people mainly later in life. Large weight-bearing joints, like hips, knees and spines, are affected the most. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an auto-immune disease, which means the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. The joint lining becomes inflamed and swollen and fluid builds up in the joint cavity. In severe RA, the joints become deformed - affecting people’s ability to move.
Lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, exercise and physical therapy are central to OA management. Medicines are the cornerstone of RA management, however a good balance between rest and exercise is important. Ask your pharmacist for an arthritis fact card.
Common types of arthritis.