In New Zealand about 1 in 6 people have some form arthritis, including 1,000 children.
Unfortunately, arthritis is still underestimated with many people reluctant to seek help, because they may have been told ‘it’s just arthritis’. However it doesn’t have to be that way.
Arthritis can be extremely painful and debilitating, not to mention being the leading cause of disability in New Zealand. It can cause people to need time off work with sickness and illness.
There are more than 140 different forms of arthritis. By far the most common is osteoarthritis, or OA, which is described as ‘wear and tear on the joints’ and it occurs mainly in older people. Osteoarthritis is often what people think of when they hear the word arthritis.
The second most common form is gout, which causes sudden attacks of pain in a joint, starting with the big toe or another part of the foot. Within a day there is severe pain and swelling of the joint and the skin over the joint may also become red and shiny.
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an inflammatory condition that can affect the joints and other parts of the body as well.
Managing pain is a key goal for those with osteoarthritis, but it might not be enough to manage the pain and other treatments may help. Other tips are:
- Reduce your weight if you are overweight, as this will reduce the stress on joints.
- Continue to exercise when you can to support strong muscles and joints.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
There is a range of supplements to help treat and prevent the pain and joint damage of osteoarthritis. Talk to us about the evidence for supplements, sometimes there maybe not be a lot of evidence to support their effectiveness but many patients say they feel a difference when they stop taking them.
Some examples are glucosamine which is a naturally occurring substance found in some shellfish. It should not be taken by those that have an allergy to shellfish. There is some evidence that glucosamine maybe be helpful for supporting cartilage in knee joints when it is taken in the right dose for a reasonable period of time.
Chondroitin and glucosamine are often combined together in supplements for joint conditions. There are reports of this combination being helpful.
If you have any form of arthritis see your pharmacist for advice about getting the best from any medicines you may be taking, and for advice on the use of supplements. Pharmacists will also check that supplements will not interfere with other medications you are taking.
Visit www.arthritis.org.nz for more info.