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What does arthritis mean?
Arthritis is a name for a group of conditions affecting the joints. These conditions cause damage to the joints, usually resulting in pain and stiffness. Arthritis can affect many different parts of the joint and nearly every joint in the body.
Is rheumatism different to arthritis?
Not really. Rheumatism is just a more general word that was used in the past. It described any pain in your bones, muscles and joints. We know more about problems with bones, muscles and joints, so we use words like back pain, tendonitis and arthritis to describe these conditions now.
Are there different types of arthritis?
There are over 100 forms of arthritis. Each type of arthritis affects you and your joints in different ways. Some forms of arthritis can also involve other parts of the body, such as the eyes. The most common forms of arthritis are:
Who gets arthritis?
Anyone can get arthritis, including children and young people. In Australia nearly one in five people have arthritis. Many people think arthritis is a normal part of getting older. This is not true. In fact two out of every three people with arthritis are between 15 and 60 years old. Arthritis can affect people from all backgrounds, ages and lifestyles.
What are the symptoms?
Arthritis affects people in different ways but the most common symptoms are:
Is my sore joint arthritis?
There are many different reasons why your joints may be sore. Not all pain in muscles and joints is caused by arthritis. It could be from an injury or using your joints and muscles in an unusual way (for example, playing a new sport or lifting heavy boxes). You should talk to your doctor if you have pain and stiffness that:
How can I find out if I have arthritis?
You should see your doctor as soon as possible if you have symptoms of arthritis. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine your joints. They may do some tests or x-rays, but these can be normal in the early stages of arthritis. It may take several visits before your doctor can tell what type of arthritis you have. This is because some types of arthritis can be hard to diagnose in the early stages. Your doctor may also send you to a rheumatologist,a doctor who specialises in arthritis, for more tests.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the whole joint including bone, cartilage, ligaments and mucsles. In later stages it is characterized by loss of the cartilage but there are many causes. Osteoarthritis mainly affects people at older ages, but it can develop in younger people. Osteoarthritis is different to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become fragile and brittle, causing them to break more easily.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Osteoarthritis vary from person to person. Your symptoms will also depend on which joints are affected. Osteoarthritis tends to come on slowly, over months or even years. The most common symptoms are pain and stiffness of the joints. These feelings are usually worst with activity initially but can be more constant in later disease. These symptoms may affect your ability to do normal daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs and opening jars.
What causes it?
Osteoarthritisis not fully understood. Research shows there are some things that may put you at more risk of developing
Osteoarthritis in certain joints, such as:
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose Osteoarthritis from your symptoms and a physical examination. An x-ray may show the narrowing and changes in the shape of your joint. However x-rays do not diagnose how much trouble you will have. An x-ray that shows joint damage does not always mean you will have a lot of pain or problems.
On the other hand your joint may be very painful despite x-rays being normal. Blood tests are only helpful to rule out other types of arthritis.
What will happen to me?
The impact of Osteoarthritis on your normal activities and lifestyle depends on which joints are affected. However the outlook for most people with OA is very positive. For many people Osteoarthritis will be mild and not cause major problems. Osteoarthritis of the hip and knee can cause servere disability and surgery to replace joints is often very effective but only indicated after failure of less invasive approaches such as weight loss and exercise.
Is there a cure for Osteoarthritis?
Currently there is no cure for Osteoarthritis. While there are treatments that can effectively control symptoms, you should be wary of products or therapies that claim to cure Osteoarthritis.
What treatments are there for Osteoarthritis?
Treatments for Osteoarthritisvary depending on which joints are affected and the severity of your condition. There is no way of predicting exactly which treatment will work best for you. Each treatment has its own benefits and risks. Your doctor may need to trial several different treatments before finding the one that is right for you.
In general terms, treatment usually includes:
How are feet affected by arthritis?
Any joint in your ankles, feet and toes can be affected by arthritis. Many different types of arthritis can affect the feet and cause joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Arthritis in the feet can make standing and walking painful. You may find your feet and/or toes change shape, making it harder to fit shoes. Here are some things that may help you manage your arthritis.
Exercise is important to keep your joints moving however you may need to try different types of exercise if you have painful feet. For example, consider exercising in water. The buoyancy of the water takes pressure off your ankles and feet and you may find you can move more freely than you can on land. For more information see the Water exercise information sheet. Strength training and cycling are also good forms of exercise that do not put extra pressure on sore feet. If you are walking or standing, make sure you wear supportive, comfortable shoes.
One of the best ways to take pressure off painful ankles and feet is to lose any extra body weight. Being overweight can make your symptoms worse as your affected joints need to carry more weight. See the section above for tips on exercise if you have arthritis of the feet. You may find it useful to see a dietitian for advice about healthy eating.
Examples of low-impact activities include:
It doesn’t matter when you exercise, as long as you do.
If possible, try to exercise when: