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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.

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Vasculitis is the inflammation of the blood vessels. There are a number of different types of vasculitis, the most common of which is giant cell arteritis (GCA) also known as temporal arteritis.

GCA typically develops in people over 65 years old and the most common symptoms are headache over the temples, pain on eating and aching and stiffness across the shoulders and hips. There may also be disturbance of vision and on occasion vision may be completely lost. Measures of inflammation in the blood are usually elevated and the diagnosis may be confirmed by taking a sample of the artery in the skin of the temple (temporal artery biopsy) for microscopic examination.

Treatment for vasculitis is with steroids which should be started immediately to reduce the risk of blindness. GCA is often associated with polymyalgia rheumatica.

Other less common forms of vasculitis include Wegener's granulomatosis, Churg Strauss syndrome, microscopic polyangiitis and Henoch Schönlein purpura. These are all conditions which can affect many different organs in the body but patients are often looked after by rheumatologists as joint and muscle pains are common features.

More information from the Vasculitis Foundation.

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