Arthritis FAQs

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Arthritis is a condition that everyone has heard of but that very few understand. There are a number of myths and fallacys about arthritis also so here are the answers to some of the questions we are asked most frequently:

How many people are affected by arthritis in Ireland?
Can young people get it? How many types of arthritis are there? What is osteoarthritis and who does it affect?
What is rheumatoid arthritis and who does it affect?
What is ankylosing spondylitis and who does it affect?
What is fibromyalgia?
What is gout?
What is psoriatic arthritis?
What is polymyalgia rheumatica?
What is lupus?
What is juvenile arthritis?
How does arthritis affect Irish workers?
Do people with arthritis make use of the healthcare system a lot?
If I have arthritis am I more at risk of other conditions?
Is it ok for me to exercise with my arthritis?
Should I eat or avoid eating anything in particular if I have arthritis?
How does arthritis affect people's mental health and emotions?

 

How many people are affected by arthritis in Ireland?

Over 1 in 5 adults and more than 1,200 children have some form of arthritis in Ireland. This means around 750,000 (2011 census) Irish people have arthritis. 

Can young people get it?

Arthritis is a condition that affects people of all ages, even children. 18% (165,000 in Ireland) of arthritis patients are less than 55 years old, while 1,000 Irish children are living with juvenile arthritis (JA). By the year 2030, 25% of adults aged 18 years and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

How many types of arthritis are there?

There are over 100 types of arthritis, the most common of which is osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, fibromyalgia, ankylosing spondylitis, gout and psoriatic arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica and lupus are some of the other major forms.

What is osteoarthritis and who does it affect?

A significant majority of people suffering from arthritis have osteoarthritis (OA). This is the "wear and tear" form of arthritis and results in joint and cartilage damage and increased risk of orthopaedic dependencies. The majority of Irish people over 55 years of age have X-Ray evidence of OA at some joint in their body. Women are likely to be affected 2-3 times more than men by OA.

You can find out more about the condition in our Living with Osteoarthritis information booklet.

What is rheumatoid arthritis and who does it affect?

Around 40,000 people have the severe inflammatory auto-immune condition called rheumatoid arthritis (RA) where the body is said to attack itself. 70% of these rheumatoid arthritis patients are women.

Around half of adults with RA are of working age, three quarters of which are diagnosed when of working age. A third of people with RA will have stopped working within two years. It is estimated that 70% of RA patients cannot work outside the home due to their disease.

You can find out more about the condition in our Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis information booklet.

What is ankylosing spondylitis and who does it affect?

More than 44,000 people in Ireland have ankylosing spondylitis, a progressive and chronic rheumatic disorder that mainly affects the spine. Unemployment rates in workers with AS are three times higher than in the general population.

You can find out more about the condition in our Understanding Arthritis information booklet.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a common disorder causing widespread pain, aching and stiffness that affects the muscles, ligaments and tendons, but not the joints. It may affect one part of the body or several different areas such as the limbs, neck and back

You can find out more about the condition in our Living with Fibromyalgia information booklet.

What is gout?

Gout is a condition where crystals build up in the body and cause joints to become very painful. Around 24,000 Irish adults consult their GP with gout every year.

You can find out more about the condition in our Gout information booklet.

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Some people who live with the skin condition psoriasis also develop a form of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis. It causes inflammation in and around the joints. Psoriatic arthritis can affect most joints, but typically causes problems in fingers and toes, with pitting and discoloration of nails

You can find out more about the condition in our Living with Psoriatic information booklet.

What is polymyalgia rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory condition affecting the muscles in and around the shoulder and upper arm areas, buttocks and thighs. The cause is unknown.

You can find out more about the condition in our Understanding Arthritis information booklet.

What is lupus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) is a disease in which the body’s natural defences (the immune system) are upset. Cells and antibodies, which are in the blood to defend the body against infection, begin to attack it instead and cause inflammation.

You can find out more about the condition in our Understanding Arthritis information booklet.

What is juvenile arthritis?

Approximately 1,000 children in Ireland have juvenile arthritis. It involves inflammation, pain and swelling in one or more joints for at least six weeks.

You can find out more about the condition in our When a Child Has Arthritis or When a Teenager Has Arthritis information booklets.

How does arthritis affect Irish workers?

It is estimated that the costs of arthritis to the state in terms of lost working hours per annum is €1.6 billion. Arthritis sufferers make up a large proportion of people living with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which are the most commonly reported cause of work-related ill health in Ireland. 

The direct cost of MSDs in the workplace in Ireland is estimated to be at least €750m. Ireland spends more per capita (40.9%) on sickness and healthcare benefits than 24 other countries featured in a Europe-wide study.

Do people with arthritis make use of the healthcare system a lot?

Over 30% of GP visits relate to arthritis. Over 60% of patients remain in the primary care system after diagnosis.

If I have arthritis am I more at risk of other conditions?

Unfortunately yes. Many forms of arthritis are associated with other conditions.

  • 27% of people with arthritis also suffer from depression.
  • 31% of people with arthritis also suffer from high cholesterol.
  • 35% of people with arthritis also suffer from high blood pressure.
  • 36% of people with arthritis also suffer from diabetes.
  • 47% of people with arthritis also suffer from heart disease.
  • 48% of people with arthritis also suffer from osteoporosis.

Is it ok for me to exercise with my arthritis?

It may seem counter-intuitive but taking regular exercise is extremely important for anybody who suffers from arthritis. Exercises, especially those that are not hard on your joints, are hugely effective in combating pain and fatigue.

Numerous studies have proven the benefits of exercises, such as walking, swimming and yoga and shown how chemicals released in the brain during physical activity reduce pain and lower inflammation without the side effects associated with medication.

Should I eat or avoid eating anything in particular if I have arthritis?

No food has ever been proven to be bad for arthritis but watching your weight is important as research has shown that for every 1lb (0.45kg) gained in weight, there is a 4lb (1.8kg) increase in knee joint stress in overweight and obese people. This has led scientists to conclude that being overweight doubles a person’s risk of suffering from knee osteoarthritis, while being obese quadruples it.

How does arthritis affect people's mental health and emotions?

A recent study by Arthritis Ireland revealed the true emotional impact of the condition on people’s lives:

  • 48% can no longer participate in the social activities they used to enjoy
  • 30% are worried about how their condition has affected their appearance
  • 31% are sad and depressed, while 40% find it hard to keep going and admit their arthritis is a constant worry for them
  • 40% believe their condition has had a negative impact on intimacy with their spouse or partner, with some stating they no longer have an active sex life
  • Half of those who are separated, divorced or living apart believe their arthritis was a contributing factor to their relationship break-up
  • 40% find basic household chores, such as “opening a tetra pack carton” or “being able to put a nappy on a child”, difficult
  • 39% worry that their arthritis is a burden for their children
  • 65% believe their children have a good understanding of their condition
  • 73% say their children are not embarrassed by their condition
  • 44% are in pain every day
  • 55% feel comfortable talking to their spouse or partner about their arthritis
  • 42% feel comfortable talking with their GP about their arthritis.

 

 

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