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There are over 200 types of rheumatic disease and over nine million people in the UK have some form of arthritis. Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. Most people with arthritis will experience pain and some difficulty in moving around.

Arthritis affects people of all ages, including children. It is not clear what causes it and there is no cure at present. However, treatment can largely alleviate the symptoms and enable people to continue to live an active life, although some modifications may be necessary.

Rheumatic Conditions FAQs

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Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints which usually starts in the late 40s, 50s or 60s. It is sometimes referred to as ‘degenerative joint disease’. In osteoarthritis the cartilage (a layer of gristle which covers the ends of the bones and cushions the joint) becomes thinner and the underlying bone thickens and grows outwards. The synovium (lining of the joint) may swell and produce excess fluid. In severe osteoarthritis the cartilage may become so thin that the bone ends touch and start to wear away. This causes pain, swelling and deformity. The larger, weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips are commonly affected, as is the spine (spondylosis); however the hands may also be affected, particularly in women. When osteoarthritis occurs in the feet it usually affects the base of the big toes and can lead to painful bunions.

Treatment usually involves pain relief and sometimes anti-inflammatory tablets or creams and gels. Glucosamine and chondroitin may also be helpful, particularly in the early stages of the disease. Severely damaged joints due to ostearthritis may require joint replacement surgery.

Keeping your weight at a sensible level (maintaining a normal body mass index) is also advised, since weight gain increases the load on your joints. If you are unsure about the correct weight for you, please discuss this with staff at your next visit.

More information about diet and arthritis.