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Monthly Update: Arthritis

Hi, it is Cheryl Dechaine RN, chronic disease nurse here at WFMP. Today, I’m going to highlight a chronic disease which is one of the most common & costly in our own country: arthritis.

September is arthritis awareness month. Arthritis impacts 6 million Canadians, which means 1 in 5 people live with it every day. It affects all ages, including children. There are over 100 different forms of arthritis. The cost to our economy is about 33 billion dollars per year.

Arthritis is an invisible disease, often only known to the one who suffers from it. It is much more serious than people think. Many believe that it involves only minor aches and pains and that it impacts only older people. This is why the Canadian Arthritis Society dedicates a whole month to building awareness about the disease in order that it is better understood.

What exactly is arthritis?

As previously mentioned, there are many different forms of arthritis. A good general explanation is that it is a collection of conditions affecting joints and other tissues. It causes inflammation which leads to pain, restriction of mobility and diminished quality of life. If arthritis is not treated, it can lead to irreparable damage to affected areas, resulting in loss of function and disability.

Arthritis is a chronic condition which means it is ongoing, constant, or recurring. There is no cure. Treatment goals involve pain management and preserving function of the affected joint tissue.

Types of Arthritis

Arthritis conditions are grouped into 2 broad categories.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

This is the most common type of arthritis. It used to be known as the “wear and tear” arthritis. More recently OA has been described as the “result of the body’s failed attempt to repair damaged joint tissues”. OA leads to the breakdown of cartilage which is the tough, elastic material that covers and protects the ends of bones. This leads to bone-on-bone contact which can cause stiffness, swelling, and reduced range of motion. The joints most commonly affected by OA are the knees, hips, and those in the hands and spine.

Factors that contribute to developing OA are: age, obesity, your sex, occupation, participation in certain sports, history of joint injury or surgery and genetics.

Inflammatory Arthritis

IA includes every form of arthritis except osteoarthritis (OA). It differs from OA, in that the source of the joint damage is from inflammation not from wearing away of your cartilage. Most forms of IA are also autoimmune diseases where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own healing tissues.

If IA is not identified and treated quickly, these conditions tend to progress more quickly and aggressively than OA. It can result in pain, stiffness, restricted mobility, fatigue, and joint/tissue damage.

Common examples of IA include: rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. There are many other types, including things like gout and lupus which most of us did not realize were arthritic conditions. Some forms of IA can effect the entire body.

Thank you for taking time to increase your awareness of arthritis. Please keep connected with WFMP for more information about how arthritis is diagnosed and managed.

Cheryl Dechaine, RN.

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