Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week provides a unique opportunity to shed light not only on rheumatoid arthritis but also on related conditions that impact joint health.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, leading to pain, swelling and joint damage. This differs from the type of arthritis that is typically caused by the wear and tear on joints, known as Osteoarthritis (OA). In OA the joint wears down and the underlying bone begins to change; it’s the most common type of arthritis in the UK1. Although the conditions differ, all forms of arthritis can cause swelling, tenderness, and grating or crackling sounds when moving the arthritic joints.
For this year’s awareness day, we’re delving into arthritis myths and facts, we aim to debunk misconceptions, enhance understanding, and promote informed conversations about arthritic conditions.
Myth: Arthritis Only Affects the Elderly
Fact: While it’s true that knee arthritis becomes more common with age, it is not exclusive to the elderly. People of all ages can develop arthritis, with risk factors including genetics, previous injuries, obesity, and joint overuse. This is particularly true for knee OA which is thought to affect 1 in 5 adults over 45 in England2.
Younger individuals, especially athletes, can also experience knee OA due to repetitive stress on the joints. Research by the University of Edinburgh found that one in four retired Olympians reported a diagnosis of osteoarthritis3.
Myth: Arthritis Is Solely the Result of “Wear and Tear”
Fact: While wear and tear on the joints does contribute to arthritis, it’s not the sole factor. The condition involves a complex interplay of genetic predisposition, joint mechanics, inflammation, and lifestyle factors. Early research and advancements in recent years studying the genetic factors of osteoarthritis has opened up the possibility for early detection of the condition4. As previously mentioned, variations like Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease and it is unclear what causes these diseases.
Myth: All Knee Pain Is Due to Knee Arthritis
Fact: Knee pain can have various causes, including injuries, ligament damage, or one many types of arthritis. A proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional that is confirmed by X-ray and/or blood tests is crucial to determine the exact cause of knee pain. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, for instance, often have similar symptoms which could only be distinguished by tests.
Myth: There’s Nothing You Can Do to Prevent or Manage Arthritis
Fact: There are several strategies to help prevent and manage arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the stress on joints, while regular exercise helps strengthen the supportive muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Protecting your joints during physical activities and avoiding excessive impact, such as in running, can also reduce the risk of developing some forms of arthritis, such as knee OA. Early intervention with medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes can slow down the progression of the condition.
Myth: Surgery Is the Only Solution for Severe Arthritis
Fact: Surgery, such as knee replacement in knee OA, is an option for severe cases of arthritis that haven’t responded well to conservative treatments. Around 70,000 knee replacements are carried out in England and Wales every year5. However, surgery is not the only solution. Non-surgical treatments, including physical therapy, medications, injections, and assistive devices like braces, can effectively manage arthritis symptoms.
MAC Clinical Research is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those living with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis through clinical research, investigating potential new and improved treatments.
If you are currently living with knee osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and you are interested in taking part in clinical research for these conditions, visit our future studies webpage here to register your interest and be notified when a clinical trial suited to your condition becomes available
Depending on the clinical trial, you may receive financial reimbursement for your time and commitment. MAC also provides reasonable travel expenses or transportation for clinic visits. All of MAC’s clinics are fully accessible.
2 Arthritis Research UK – Prevalence of osteoarthritis in England and local authorities: Birmingham
3 Science Daily – Quarter of former Olympians suffer from osteoarthritis.
4 National Library of Medicine – Genetics in Osteoarthritis