While you’ve probably heard of arthritis, you might not be familiar with the causes, symptoms and treatment.

There are different types of arthritis with some being more common than others in the UK.

To help you understand the condition further, the NHS has explained what it is, the things to look out for, how it can be treated and more.

What is arthritis?

The NHS website explains that “arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint.”

Millions of people in the UK have arthritis or a similar condition.

Arthritis doesn’t discriminate as it can affect all ages, even children.

The most common types of arthritis in the UK are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis but what are they?

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the UK, mostly impacts people who are in their mid-40s or older.

The NHS website adds: “It's also more common in women and people with a family history of the condition. 

“But it can occur at any age as a result of an injury or be associated with other joint-related conditions, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.”

It first affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint which makes moving it more difficult than usual and can lead to pain and stiffness.

When the cartilage lining roughens and thins out, this makes the tendons and ligaments work harder which can cause swelling and bony spurs called osteophytes can form.

The NHS adds: “Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position.”

Hands, knees, hips and the spine are the commonly affected joints.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is less common than osteoarthritis and often affects 30 to 50-year-olds with women more likely to be affected than men.

The NHS website explains: “In rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. 

“The outer covering (synovium) of the joint is the first place affected.

“This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint's shape. This may cause the bone and cartilage to break down.

“People with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body.”

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What are the symptoms of arthritis?

There are a variety of types of arthritis and symptoms are different depending which you have.

You’ll need to get an accurate diagnosis if you have any of the following:

  • joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • inflammation in and around the joints
  • restricted movement of the joints
  • warm red skin over the affected joint
  • weakness and muscle wasting

How to treat arthritis

Arthritis can’t be cured but it can be treated, helping it to slow down.

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Lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery can help treat osteoarthritis while treatment for rheumatoid arthritis aims to slow the progress and reduce joint inflammation, helping to prevent joint damage.

Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis include medicine, physiotherapy and surgery.

You can find out more about arthritis and how to refer yourself directly to services for help, without the need of getting in touch with your GP via the NHS website.