Arthritis is a medical condition that damages the body’s joints, causing discomfort and pain. It can range from mild to severe and can affect people of all ages. Although there is usually no cure for arthritis, there are ways to manage the condition.
An overview of arthritis
Arthritis is not one disease alone, but an umbrella term for more than 100 conditions that affect the joints of the body. Joints are points where two or more bones meet, such as in the wrist, knuckles, hips, knees and ankles.
The three most common types of arthritis found in Australians are:
Other types of arthritis include:
Symptoms of arthritis
The symptoms of arthritis vary from person to person. But if you have arthritis, you will almost certainly have symptoms relating to your joints, such as:
- redness and heat
- stiffness or reduced movement
Some people also get other problems outside their joints. Other common symptoms include:
- weight loss
- skin problems
- feeling unwell
If you have any symptoms of arthritis, it is important you see your doctor to get a diagnosis and start treatment. Without treatment, the condition may get worse and cause long-term damage.
Some types of arthritis can be difficult to diagnose, so it may take a few visits and tests to get a definite diagnosis. Your doctor may also need to refer you to a rheumatologist, who specialises in conditions that affect the joints.
For many types of arthritis, there are treatments available that can help control symptoms and prevent damage to the joints.
The most appropriate treatment will depend on which type of arthritis you have, which joints are affected, and the symptoms you have.
Treatment might include:
- medicines, such as painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicines or medicines to slow down the disease (called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, used for inflammatory forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis)
- pain management techniques, such as meditation
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to replace or repair damaged joints.
Living with arthritis
There are many things you can do to help manage arthritis, so you can meet the demands of daily life.
Among the most important things are to:
- maintain a healthy weight
- eat a well-balanced diet
- exercise regularly
- learn ways to manage your pain
- seek support when you need it
Additional information about arthritis
For more information on arthritis, how to manage it, and to learn about the support available, you can contact Arthritis Australia on 1800 011 041.
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Last reviewed: June 2018