Whether you or a loved one are diagnosed with arthritis, or you just want to learn about it, there’s quite a lot of material to cover. From symptoms and risk factors to treatments and clinical trials, the various types of this condition are widespread and complex.
Below you will find a comprehensive resource list that is intended to help you understand arthritis, learn self-care tips to help you live with arthritis, and discover potential treatment options.
Basic Information about Arthritis
Arthritis Today Magazine - This educational magazine provides the most current and trustworthy advice on treatments, fitness, nutrition, and daily living tips from the world’s top doctors and health experts.
Arthritis Research UK - Arthritis is a disease of the joints and is also called degenerative joint disease which is characterized by inflammation. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, but just two of those types account for the vast majority of cases. This website is the place to go for all things arthritis. It explains types of arthritis, pathophysiology, how a diagnosis is made, and how arthritis is treated.
The Two Most Common Types of Arthritis
There are over 100 forms of arthritis and each form has different symptoms. Inflammation, pain, and stiffness of the joints is central to all of them. The severity, pattern, and location of the pain varies by type, and the two most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) - Osteoarthritis is by far the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 10 million people in the UK. This resource describes the features of osteoarthritis that distinguish it from other types of arthritis and how osteoarthritis affects the body. OA is the type of arthritis that we commonly associate with aging. It tends to affect only joints - primarily the hands, hips, spine, and weight-bearing joints, especially the knees.
- Living Well with Osteoarthritis - This resource from Harvard Medical School provides useful information on living with OA. It covers what causes OA, how it’s diagnosed, and how it’s treated.
- Osteoarthritis Risk Factors – This resource from the United States National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) discusses the risk factors for OA. Some risk factors can be modified and some cannot, such as being overweight, getting older, previous joint injury, genetic defects in joint cartilage, and abnormal formation of a joint. Other risk factors are repetitive movements, such as those which are job-related or those associated with sports.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common type of arthritis. RA can be distinguished from other types of arthritis by its clinical features. It is primarily a disease of joints, characterized by warmth, redness, swelling, and pain. The muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding the joint weaken, and the joint becomes unstable. This resource provides a plethora of great information about RA, including what it is, how it’s managed and treated, and what you can do to making living with RA easier.
- Living Well with Rheumatoid Arthritis – This resource from the United Kingdom National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society provides a wealth of information about living with RA. Topics include pregnancy and parenthood, emotions and relationships, work and benefits, lifestyle, and practical help.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk Factors – This resource from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines the risk factors for RA. Risk factors are related to age and sex, genetics, smoking, and reproductive history. According to the CDC, RA is two to three times higher in women than men.
Self-Care for Arthritis Sufferers
Treating arthritis involves much more than medication – it means taking care of your entire body and possibly making lifestyle changes. These resources address many aspects of daily living and provide tips you can use to make sure you’re helping yourself, rather than making things worse.
Make sure you’re getting enough rest - When you have arthritis, rest and sleep are essential. In this resource you’ll read about why sleep is so important, and what the consequences are of too little sleep. You can learn ways to help you fall asleep, or stay asleep. Some symptoms of arthritis become worse with too little sleep, such as fatigue, stomach problems, and poor concentration.
Be conscious of what you’re eating - Eating well can help alleviate pain and inflammation and may even influence the progression of your arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, dietary recommendations vary. This resource provides helpful information on the best foods to eat or avoid if you have arthritis and also provides some arthritis-friendly recipes.
Choose the right footwear - Proper shoes are extremely important for arthritis sufferers, so use this guide about shoes to choose the footwear that’s right for you, your activities, and your condition. The right shoes can help with pain in the feet, knees, and hips when walking. If a cane is used it should be fit by a professional, not borrowed.
Understand which exercises help, and which ones can hurt – When you have arthritis, exercise may help keep joints moving, lessen pain, and strengthen the muscles around the joints. Read about different types of exercise, why moderation is important, the exercises that are best for you, and necessary precautions in this guide from the Australian government. Three types of exercise are beneficial with arthritis:
- Dancing and other range of motion exercises work to relieve stiffness and improve flexibility.
- Weight training and other strengthening exercises work to maintain or add to muscle strength, providing support to protect joints.
- Walking, bicycle riding, and other aerobic exercises work to improve heart health, prevent weight gain, and lessen swelling.
Remember the importance of human connection – Suffering from arthritis is tough, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone. This resource is called Arthritis Care, and it’s the UK’s largest organization helping people live well with arthritis. Their helpline is a free, confidential service for anyone affected by arthritis, and they have a network of local branches and groups to support people with arthritis.
Tell the DVLA that you have arthritis – People who have arthritis in the UK are required to report their condition to the DVLA, and to have special controls in their vehicle. This resource explains the requirements and how to report.
Treatment of Arthritis
While arthritis cannot be cured, treatment can alleviate the symptoms or even slow their progression. Treatment may take the form of medication, physical therapy, and in some cases surgery.
Medications for Arthritis – Drugs may be prescribed or taken over-the-counter to help alleviate symptoms or even slow the progression of arthritis. Different drugs are used for different types of the illness. This resource provides in-depth information about the various drugs used in the treatment of arthritis. In the United States similar information can be found via the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In these resources you can learn about costs, risks and benefits, side-effects, effectiveness, drug interactions, and other characteristics of medications used to treat arthritis.
The following medications are often used:
- Acetaminophen – Acetaminophen, an active ingredient in many medications, is often used for arthritis pain relief. This resource explains how you can take acetaminophen safely.
- NSAIDS – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, help with inflammation and pain. This resource discusses their use in arthritis treatment.
- DMARDs – Disease-modifying, anti-rheumatic drugs may slow the progression of arthritis. This resource explains what DMARDs are and how they are used to treat arthritis.
- Biologic Response Modifiers – Biologic response modifiers, or biologics, reduce inflammation by targeting specific components of the immune system. They are usually prescribed to patients who do not respond to DMARDs, though occasionally they will be prescribed first. This resource explains what they do and how they are used.
- Corticosteroids – Corticosteroids protect the joints from future damage and are especially helpful in the early treatment of RA. This resource is an in-depth explanation of the pros and cons of using corticosteroids in arthritis treatment.
Water Therapy for Arthritis – Taking warm baths and doing exercises in the water can be a powerful weapon against aches, stiffness, and fatigue associated with arthritis. This resource explains the benefits of water exercises and provides specific movements you can use to safely engage in arthritis water therapy. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
Surgery for Arthritis – Joint surgery is a lesser-used option in the treatment of arthritis, and it’s usually considered when other pain relief treatments are ineffective. It may also be suggested when the inflammation caused by arthritis leads to damaged ligaments, tendons, or joints. This resource discusses the benefits of surgery, questions to ask your doctor, how to prepare, and tips for recovery.
Clinical Trials - People with arthritis are important contributors to medical knowledge about the condition, including trying new drugs or other therapies. There’s an abundance of research studies for which people with arthritis can volunteer. Some studies may provide relief of the volunteer’s condition. This resource is a search tool for people looking to participate in clinical trials in the UK.
Health Scams – It’s important to beware of health scams associated with untested treatments and clinic trials. Many people try remedies which have not been tested for safety and effectiveness. Some are harmful, snake venom being one such example. Others, such as copper bracelets, are harmless, but considered ineffective by experts, including the Arthritis Foundation. Recent studies suggest that acupuncture may ease pain caused by arthritis, but the jury is still out. Dietary supplements, more specifically, glucosamine and chondroitin, may lessen moderate to severe OA pain. This resource provides the info you need to keep yourself safe from health scams. Signs that a substance or device is unproven include:
- The remedy claims to work for ALL types of arthritis and other diseases.
- There is only one research study which claims effectiveness of the substance.
- The label has no directions for use, or warnings about side effects.
- The person recommending the treatment profits directly from your purchase of the product.
Caring for Caregivers - Caring for someone with a chronic disease, such as arthritis, can be exhausting, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are many services offered for caregivers, from relief for a few hours to an extended holiday. This resource is a care and support guide and directory addressing the needs of people caring for others with chronic conditions. This guide also provides information about benefits, rights, respites, claiming an allowance, and more.
Living with arthritis isn’t easy, but when you’re armed with the right information the pain can be eased.