Arthritis - A Health Priority


Australia’s number one disease, arthritis, costs over $14 billion per year and affects over 3.6 millions Australians. Research funding for arthritis and chronic musculoskeletal diseases remains historically low, leaving us in the dark about this important health issue. 

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It causes joint pain by gradually wearing away the cartilage which cushions and protects ends of bones. The bone can rub against another bone causing swelling and inflammation. The bones can eventually grow bone spurs that are painful.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a condition in which the immune system attacks joints and tissues. This causes pain, stiffness, and swelling of the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joint. This type of arthritis is symmetrical and affects the same joints both on the left and right sides of the body. For example, both hands or feet. Rheumatoid Arthritis affects women two to three time more than men. Rheumatoid symptoms can vary and appear suddenly. These symptoms can include joint pains, fatigue, weight gain, fatigue, fever and extreme exhaustion. The condition can cause damage to the joints and other organs of the body such as the lungs and eyes.

The most common joints affected by RA are the hands, feet, knees and hips. Other parts of the body can be affected, including the linings of the lungs and heart, the skin, or even the skin itself. It is most common among females between 30-60 years old.

Psoriatic arthritis is not curable, but there are treatments that can reduce the symptoms and help prevent joint damage. Early treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic medications (DMARDs), which are the most effective, is recommended. It is important to talk to your doctor about your medication, especially if you are planning to get pregnant or breastfeed. The Australian Rheumatology Association Medicine Information Sheets provide more information on DMARDs.

People with arthritis can manage their symptoms through a healthy diet and regular exercise, as well as by not smoking or managing stress. Joining a support group or talking to a rheumatologist can improve the quality of their life. Alternative therapies, such as tai-chi and meditation, can improve the health of those with arthritis. They relieve stress and strengthen muscles. It is possible for people with arthritis to live an active and full life. However, it is important that they know their limits and seek medical attention if the condition becomes worse.

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