If you have arthritis, or are caring for someone with the condition, you are certainly not alone. Arthritis is the single biggest cause of physical disability in Singapore.
How Common is Arthritis?
The answer is ‘very common indeed’. Of the two major types of arthritis (osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis is by far the most common.
- Osteoarthritis is more common in people over the age of 60 and as the population of the UK gets older, the number of people who suffer from osteoarthritis will also increase.
- In contrast, rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of any age, and is usually first picked between your 30s and 50s. About one in every hundred people is affected by rheumatoid arthritis, with women up to three times more likely to suffer than men.
Osteoarthritis is much more common than rheumatoid arthritis and tends to affect older people.
How did I end up with Osteoarthritis?
In the past, osteoarthritis was wrongly considered to be an unavoidable consequence of wear and tear on the joints. We no know that joints don’t just wear out with age, so if you do develop osteoarthritis, it can usually be traced back to at least one (and possibly a few) of the causes listed below.
The chances of getting osteoarthritis seem to increase with age.
Carrying extra weight can put joints (especially the knees and hips) under unnecessary stress and can damage them, leading to osteoarthritis.
Sustaining an injury to a joint (like a fracture) can make you more likely to develop osteoarthritis in the future. Some professional athletes can injure the same joints over and over again.
Performing certain tasks on a regular basis can put your joints under strain. Farmers often develop osteoarthritis in their hips and people who operate machinery like pneumatic drills can develop arthritis in their hands or elbows.
Damage from another joint disease
Suffering from a joint-damaging disease like rheumatoid arthritis can make you more likely to develop osteoarthritis in later years.
Your family history
Some forms of osteoarthritis do run in families, especially those cases that affect the small joints of fingers. But in general, heredity is not a major reason for developing osteoarthritis.
In most joints, especially the knees and hands, osteoarthritis is more common and severe in women.
Being born with abnormal anatomy (like having one leg slightly longer than the other) can make you more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis. This is called a congenital abnormality, because you are born with it.
How did I end up with Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Unlike osteoarthritis, if you develop rheumatoid arthritis in all probability there would have been very little you could have done to prevent it. In many cases the actual cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. Scientists simply do not know enough about the condition to point the finger at any one particular factor, but some of those listed below may contribute.
We have seen that rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s own immune system starts attacking the tissues of the body’s own joints. Our genetic make-up is determined before we are born, and with it, our susceptibility to developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Some scientists believe that it is possible that being exposed to or infected with a particular bacteria or a virus could trigger the autoimmune response and ultimately lead to rheumatoid arthritis (although nobody has been able to show exactly what this infecting agent is).
Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women that in men, and this may be linked to different levels of different hormones. Furthermore, the disease can go into remission during pregnancy, only to relapse afterwards. There is also some evidence that those women who take the contracetive pill are at less risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
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