Arthritis is a broad term that refers to a group of conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling.
Australian Statistics on Arthritis
Arthritis is a common condition in Australia. According to the latest available data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2017-18, an estimated 19.3% of the Australian population or 4.6 million people, reported having it. The prevalence increased with age, with 63.8% of people aged 65 years and over reporting arthritis.
In terms of specific types of arthritis, the most common types reported by Australians were osteoarthritis (14.6%), followed by rheumatoid (1.9%) and gout (1.7%). Other less common types include psoriatic, ankylosing spondylitis, and lupus.
These statistics are from 2017-18, and the prevalence in Australia may have changed. Additionally, these statistics only reflect self-reported cases of arthritis and may not capture all cases.
Causes of Arthritis
The causes can vary depending on the specific type. Still, some general factors that may contribute to the development of arthritis include:
As people age, the risk of developing arthritis increases.
Some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid, can run in families.
A joint injury or repeated stress on a joint can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Some types of arthritis, such as reactive, can develop after an infection.
Immune system dysfunction
In autoimmune forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid and psoriatic, the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, leading to inflammation and damage.
Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints.
Exposure to certain environmental factors, such as smoking, pollution, and certain chemicals, may increase the risk of developing some types of arthritis.
The exact cause of many types of arthritis is not fully understood, and some individuals may develop it for reasons that are not yet clear.
Reducing the Risk of Arthritis
While there is no surefire way to prevent arthritis, there are some lifestyle changes you can make that may help reduce your risk of developing the condition:
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese puts extra strain on your joints, particularly in the knees and hips. Losing weight can help reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Regular physical activity can help strengthen the muscles around your joints, reduce stiffness, and improve flexibility. Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling are particularly beneficial.
Eat a healthy diet
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help keep your joints healthy. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, may also help reduce inflammation.
Protect your joints
If you participate in activities that stress your joints, such as sports or manual labour, wear protective gear and take breaks as needed to avoid overuse injuries.
Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis and may exacerbate symptoms of other types.
Get regular check-ups
Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help detect early signs and allow for prompt treatment.
While these lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of developing arthritis, they may not be enough to prevent the condition altogether, particularly in cases with a genetic predisposition.
How to Treat Arthritis
The treatment will depend on the specific type, the severity of symptoms, and other individual factors. Here are some common treatment options:
There are several types of medications that may be used as treatment, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologic agents. These medications can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and slow the progression of the disease.
Physical therapy can help improve joint function, reduce pain, and increase range of motion. A physical therapist can develop an exercise program tailored to your needs and abilities.
An occupational therapist can help you learn ways to perform daily activities with less pain and strain on your joints.
In severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be recommended. This involves replacing the damaged joint with an artificial joint.
Making lifestyle modifications such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing stress can help manage the symptoms.
Some people with arthritis find relief through alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and herbal remedies. However, talking to your healthcare provider before trying alternative treatments is essential to ensure they are safe and effective.
Work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs and symptoms. Arthritis is a chronic condition, and there is currently no cure, but with proper management, many people with arthritis can lead active and fulfilling lives.