What is Arthritis ?

Arthritis is a condition that affects your joints, making them stiff, painful and swollen. There are many different types of arthritis and can affect people of all ages.

Types of arthritis

The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis affects your joints. Osteoarthritis is a process where the cartilege, which acts a shock absorber within the joint, breaks down so that it does not protect the bones properly. In severe cases, you can feel the bones grinding against each other.

Osteoarthritis is a "wear and tear" process which changes slowly over time, but can begin with minor trauma or repeated injuries to a joint. It usually affects the feet, knees, lower back, hips and fingers. You are more likely to get osteoarthritis as you get older - this is very common in the over 60s'.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is much less common than osteoarthritis. It is an autoimmune disease, so your body's immune system is attacking your own tissues (in this case the lining of the joints). It is a complex condition, and can cause problems elsewhere in your body. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a variant that affects young people.

If you or a family member has rheumatoid arthritis, you may find that you have times when the disease flares and is worse that your normal baseline. There can also be periods where it is inactive. In some people it "burns out" and does not return. There are specialist drugs which can help reduce your body's reactions which can prevent the damage to your joints.

Symptoms

The symptoms of both kinds of arthritis are pain, stiffness and swelling in your joints.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is most common in the back, knees, hips and fingers. The symptoms will often get worse as the day goes on.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the smaller joints, including hands, wrists, fingers and elbows. The symptoms are often worse in the morning and improve as the day goes on.

When to see your online doctor

Talk to your online doctor if you have symptoms of arthritis, especially if the pain is severe or preventing you from doing normal activities. If your doctor diagnoses rheumatoid arthritis you will usually need to see a specialist to help manage your condition.

Treatment

  • If you are overweight, losing weight can reduce the load on your joints, and help protect them from further damage.
  • Physiotherapy can help to keep you mobile.
  • Pain relief medication, including paracetamol and anti-inflammatories.
  • Surgery may be needed to repair or replace damaged joints.
  • Walking-sticks and mobility aids can help.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is often treated with other medicines that stop your immune system from harming your joints. These are called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS). DMARDS include medicines such as methotrexate. Corticosteroids also have a significant role in managing rheumatoid arthritis.

Prevention

  • Keeping a healthy weight will reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Smoking can make this worse.
  • It is not known what causes rheumatoid arthritis, or how it can be prevented.

Want to talk?

Book an appointment for a video consultation with a qualified New Zealand GP, who can discuss all this with you. If appropriate, we can arrange for the medications to be precsribed and delivered to you.



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