Arthritis is a very common condition that can cause inflammation and stiffness around your joints, resulting in pain and difficulty moving. It can affect anyone, although there are types of arthritis that are related to the ageing process, which are more likely to occur later in life.
Common causes of arthritis include injury, disease, and everyday wear and tear. Genetics and lifestyle can also play a part, and jobs that are physically demanding and place repeated pressure on the same joint can contribute to your risk of developing arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is more common in females, often occurring after the menopause. It causes a thinning of the cartilage and thickening of the bone: leading to inflammation of the joint, pain and stiffness. In some cases the cartilage wears out completely. This causes the ends of the joints to rub together, resulting in acute pain and sometimes even changes to the appearance of the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease, which can affect the entire body – although it is more prevalent in the joints and tendons. It occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks the tissue around your joints, causing the cells that protect your joints to become sore and inflamed. It also creates a release of chemicals, which in turn causes further damage to the whole joint.
Symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness and sometimes fatigue. If diagnosed and treated early, rheumatoid arthritis usually responds well to medication. However, if it’s left untreated it can completely destroy the joint, resulting in the need for joint replacement.
There are more than 200 different types of arthritis and symptoms can vary hugely, although typically include pain, inflammation, tenderness, and difficulty moving the affected joint. You might also experience symptoms that you wouldn’t immediately associate with arthritis, for example sickness, weight loss and skin rashes.
In some cases your symptoms may cause you to put unnecessary strain on unaffected joints. It’s also not uncommon for pain to be referred to a different part of the body. For example arthritis in your hip can cause pain in your knee.
As well as the physical symptoms associated with arthritis, you may become frustrated as everyday activities become increasingly difficult and you find yourself reliant on friends and family.
If you are experiencing any of these arthritis symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your GP. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can start the appropriate course of treatment and potentially avoid more invasive treatments.
There are many ways to relieve the symptoms of arthritis, and treatments can include exercise, physiotherapy and medication. Your GP will be able to advise you on the best course of action following a thorough diagnosis.
If these treatments fail to improve your symptoms, your GP might consider referring you to a surgeon, to find out if you would benefit from orthopaedic surgery. Alternatively, if you are paying for your own treatment, you can refer yourself for an orthopaedic consultation at any time – you don’t need to wait for a referral from your GP.
Orthopaedic surgery is an effective treatment, which in the past was only considered when other nonsurgical methods had failed to improve symptoms. Increasingly though it is being recognised as an effective way to manage the symptoms of arthritis, often providing dramatic improvements to mobility and discomfort.
Mr Nirav Shah is highly experienced when it comes to treating arthritis in the hip and knee, using the most effective surgical treatments, including joint replacement, arthroscopy, microfracture, synovectomy and cortisone injections.