Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation within a joint. In the UK, around 10 million people have arthritis. The condition affects people of all ages including children. There are many different types of arthritis that cause a wide range of symptoms. Two of the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
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, leading to painful rubbing of bone on bone in the joints. The most frequently affected joints are in the hands, spine, knees and 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. Read more about osteoarthritis.
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 400,000 people, and often starts in people between the ages of 40 and 50 years old. Women are three times more likely to be affected by the condition than men. Read more about rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of arthritis
There are many different symptoms of arthritis and the symptoms you experience will vary depending on the type of arthritis you have. However, common arthritic symptoms include:
joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
inflammation in and around the joints
restricted movement of the joints
warmth and redness of the skin over the affected joint
weakness and muscle wasting
Living with Arthritis
If you have arthritis, there are a number of things you can do to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.For example, you can:
control your weight to ease pressure on your joints
avoid stress or injury to your joints to prevent or reduce the severity of osteoarthritis
ensure good posture to strengthen healthy joint structure
use physiotherapy and a walking stick or cane to help prevent your condition getting worse
ensure that you regularly undertake weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, to help prevent osteoarthritis. This type of exercise will increase the strength of the muscles that support your joints
Find out more on NHS Choices