Arthritis Awareness Week (March 15 – 21) is ideal for acknowledging this debilitating disease that affects more than 3.85 million Australians. Arthritis is the broader term for a many forms of this disease with the most significant being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. The most common symptoms involve the joints with pain, stiffness, swelling, redness and decreased motion.
Arthritis is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia. Despite the perception that arthritis is something that happens when we get older, it is not a natural part of ageing with the majority of sufferers being working age. Due to their condition, they are often forced to surrender their careers.
Unfortunately, arthritis is not just restricted to elderly persons. One in every 1,000 children (or approx 6,000) in Australia suffer from Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. It is considered a chronic condition because there is no cure and joints are inflamed for at least 6 weeks but often will last for months or even years. There are treatments available but it only masks the disease. The good news with JIA is that the symptoms can go into remission, the duration of which varies and sometimes up to a lifetime. Up to 50 per cent of children may go into full remission before adulthood. Fortunately, there are support groups to help. Kid’s arthritis is as common as childhood diabetes and seriously under recognised and resourced. Dramatic advances in treatment for JIA in the past decade mean that much of the joint damage, deformity and disability it causes can now be prevented. But as with most diseases, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome.
In a recent study by UNSW, Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) for Arthritis Australia the following key findings were made:
- Nearly all people with arthritis experience difficulty with daily activities;
- One third of people with arthritis are unable to manage their home or garden;
- One in four are permanently unable to work or study due to their condition;
- Five per cent require assistance with basic personal care, such as showering and dressing;
- One in five experience significant hardship as a result of the added costs and/or reduced work capacity associated with their condition.
As the condition progresses, joint damage can occur, resulting in joint weakness, instability and deformities that can interfere with the most basic daily tasks, such as walking, driving a car and preparing meals. Sometimes it can effect the eye sight too.
Fortunately, they can always reach out to our services and ease the pain of simply just getting through the day. Since arthritis can affect people of all ages, their needs and wants will also vary but the one aspect they all require is a helping hand and support – whether it is just an hour or so or around the clock.
Arthritis Australia is the peak arthritis organisation in Australia with offices in each state. The organisation offers support and promotes awareness of the challenges facing people with arthritis to the community and to leaders in business, industry, and Government. In addition, Arthritis Australia funds research into potential causes and possible cures as well as better ways to live with arthritis. www.arthritisaustralia.com.au