Arthritis and Arthur

Allow me to introduce 'Arthur'...

Arthur is many people’s not so affectionate pet name for their arthritis. Everyone has their own ‘Arthur’ and he can be a minor irritant, causing an achy knee or sore thumb, through to a full scale tyrant affecting the whole body. I thought it would be worth saying a little about Arthur and his friends and relations.

My own particular 'Arthur' is psoriatic arthritis, which I was diagnosed with at the age of 26, after suffering from unexplained tendon and joint problems for years. People commonly associate arthritis with being an older person’s disease but that’s something of a myth. In fact, one of the things that drives me most batty is people saying ‘oh aren’t you a bit young for that’ or ‘my granny has that’. No, she probably doesn’t and no, I’m sadly not too young. Arthritis can affect anyone or any age and it's horrible no matter who you are.

There are over 200 kinds of arthritis and whilst some are caused by wear and tear (such as osteoarthritis) and typically affect older people, others can affect younger people and are an auto-immune disease. Ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis all fall into this category. Your immune system normally helps defend your body from infections by attacking virus and bacteria that enter your body. In auto-immune arthritis it goes haywire attacking the joints and tendons. Symptoms include feeling stiff in the morning, painful and sometimes swollen joints, tiredness and just feeling generally 'blah'. Joints get damaged over time by uncontrolled auto-immune arthritis and sometimes this leads to permanent damage and interesting operations to mend/replace/ make bionic joints.

The good news is that there are lots of treatments available to prevent this damage - I started with steroid injections, then moved on to the immune suppressants like methotrexate. This year I finally got funding for the newest drugs, anti-TNFs, and I'm currently on Humira.

Osteoarthritis similarly causes joint pain and stiffness. It is caused by cartilage and bone wearing away, either through use or following an injury. It tends to get worse as the day goes on. Generally, OA is treated with anti-inflammatory painkillers and sometimes surgery to repair or replace joints.

Medical treatments aside, there is lot to be said for 'self-management'. It sounds awful but it is basically learning to listen to your body - knowing when to slow down if you are doing too much and when to pick up the pace and make yourself stronger. Enjoying healthy food, taking regular exercise and avoiding stress can all help keep 'Arthur' out of trouble. 
For more information it’s worth looking on the Arthritis Foundation, NHS Choices, Arthritis Care, The Arthritic Association and Arthritis Research UK websites. 

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