I mentioned (last November) that most weeks I go to cardiac rehabilitation sessions. At each of the four weekly sessions, there are about twenty or so older men and two or three women who have been through some sort of critical heart trouble. It is a mildly athletic occasion, but also a social one. We talk. Often we talk about our ailments in response to the repeated question, ’how are you?’ Often we tell the story of how we are coping with arthritis.
I have been searching the internet. There are apparently two main forms of the condition, rheumatoid arthritis being the most serious. Described as a chronic, progressive and disabling auto-immune disease (i.e. the body is actually attacking itself) it affects. 0.8% of the U.K. population and although it varies person from person, it can cause severe disability, ultimately affecting one’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. Cartilage and bone around the joints of hands, wrists and feet swell and can be damaged. A systematic disease, it can spread and affect the whole body and internal organs.
Apart from the obvious effects of inheritance and environment, the causes of rheumatoid arthritis have still to be understood. It can affect men at about the age of 45; women ten years later.
Osteoarthritis is more often experienced by older people, is the result of ‘wear and tear’, and affects the larger weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees. The cartilage (the waxy, smooth surface that allows joints to move easily and without friction) is damaged. Apparently there are changes in the ligaments and muscles which would normally stabilise the affected joints. Bony growths can develop around the edge of them, causing them to become knobbly. The bones in the joint thicken and get broader and the tissue around it becomes inflamed and swell. It is estimated that are about 8 million of us in the U.
K. who suffer from arthritis.
With rheumatoid arthritis the stiffness is worst after rest, such as first thing in the morning, the pain lasting for some time, whereas osteoarthritis responds positively to rest, and pain can be brief and less severe and persistent. Both conditions are progressive, which is the really bad news, but in each case, healthy living, and for osteoarthritis, regular exercise are ways of reducing the discomfort involved. And in both cases, severity varies from person to person and from time to time. As most things do!