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Arthritis myths busted

Siski Green / 11 October 2012

Understanding of arthritis in general population is poor, says research

Older lady's arthritic hands being held
Early signs of arthritis include joint pain and swelli

No one likes to admit that they’re ignorant about a certain topic but according to findings from medical research charity Arthritis Research UK, only one in four people say they have a poor understanding of what arthritis is. And yet, on further questioning, many of those who believe they do know about arthritis believe common myths.

Arthritis is seen as a disease that affects the elderly but few people know that more than 15,000 children also have it, as well as thousands of others under the age of 50. Your risk of developing the disease does increase with age, but with one in six people having some form of the disease, it’s one of the most common long-term conditions in the UK.

In addition, people surveyed were unclear as to contributing factors for the disease, mistakenly believing that cracking your knuckles could make you prone to the disease, for example.

Weight factors

Worryingly, around 20% of people didn’t realise that being overweight was one of the biggest risk factors for developing osteoarthritis, or that exercise could benefit those with pain from arthritis. Exercise is an effective way to alleviate pain and improve mobility.

Nearly half of those surveyed thought that arthritis simply meant a person would suffer a few ‘aches and pains’, not realising that arthritis covers a whole range of conditions that can cause issues ranging from mild pain to internal organ damage and a severely compromised immune system.

Get it checked

Perhaps one of the most important findings of the survey was that many people wrongly believe that arthritis can’t be treated and so there is little point in trying to get the condition diagnosed early. Yet early diagnosis and treatment can be extremely beneficial in preventing further pain and relieving symptoms. Early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, for example, can prevent irreparable damage to joints caused my inflammation.

When to see your doctor

Early signs of arthritis include joint pain and swelling, stiffness in a joint, grinding sensations in a joint (where a joint doesn’t move smoothly and you can feel it when you place your hand on the joint). Some of these could be caused by an injury but, as injuries are also contributing factors to arthritis, it’s still worth seeing your doctor, especially if the symptoms aren’t going away or are getting worse.


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