It's time to talk about arthritis
Bones and Joints World Arthritis Day is the chance for arthritis sufferers to shine a light on their invisible pain.
Imagine if everyday it was painful to get out of bed, dress yourself, or even, to sit down on the loo. Could you even do your job if you knew that you would have difficulty standing for long periods, or when using the stairs?
For over 10 million people living with arthritis, the leading cause of disability in the UK, that’s the daily reality. It is also the reason why Arthritis Research UK now calls for greater awareness and understanding of the problems caused by the condition.
Most people will have seen the knobbly or gnarled finger joints that are the sterotype symptom of arthritis. However, this is a symptom of just one of over 200 different types of arthritis, the majority of which are much less visible, and can affect children of all ages and even babies.
One big conversation
"Knobbly, gnarled fingers are just one symptom of hundreds of different types of arthritis; the majority painful symptoms are much less visible."
On World Arthritis Day, 12th October, Arthritis Research UK is among a number of organisations calling for ‘a big conversation’ around arthritis. One of the greatest problems with the condition is its ‘invisibility’, not just to the eye, says Olivia Belle, director of external affairs at Arthritis Research UK, but to society as a whole, which has failed to grasp the implications of the condition for people’s lives, work and relationships.
Over three in four people with arthritis think other people don't understand the impact arthritis has on their lives because they don't look seriously affected.
A big part of the problem is that people themselves often don’t admit to having arthritis, and if they do, fail to seek treatment. She says: “People don’t want to be defined by their arthritis and don’t want to admit to their vulnerability, but it is not OK to suffer in silence. This means that people with arthritis do not get the support and help they need to live well.”
Taking action on arthritis
"People don't want to admit to being vulnerable, or restricted by their arthritis; but it is not OK to suffer in silence."
Arthritis Research UK is calling for people to find out more about the reality of living with arthritis. The charity believes that if more people know about arthritis, society will become better adapted to meet their needs – with services and support in public spaces, workplaces and homes.
On the national level, this challenges policy-makers to see arthritis as a public health priority for the UK, alongside, for example, obesity. For employers it means them seeing the value in making the small, reasonable adjustments that will enable a person with arthritis to stay in work.
"See a GP if pain is bad enough to prevent you from doing the things you want to do."
For people living with arthritis themselves, the advice is to keep active, maintain a normal weight and to stop smoking. People should also be ready to speak to health professionals if they need to Belle advises: “The signs that you should see a GP are pain and swelling that last for some time and which are bad enough to prevent you from doing the things you want to do. Individuals are the expert in their own bodies, and will know when something just doesn’t feel right.”
She advises anyone consulting a GP to go prepared with the questions they need answers to. There is a lot of information from credible sources such as arthritis help groups and NHS choices. She also says: “GPs can find this a challenging area as it’s a complex and developing area of care, so our charity is working with them to offer more training and support.”