Arthritis is often referred to as a single disease, however, it’s actually more of an ‘umbrella term’ for more than 100 medical conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, specifically joints where two or more bones meet.
Arthritis-related problems include pain, stiffness, inflammation, and damage to joint cartilage (the tissue that covers the ends of bones, enabling them to move against each another) and surrounding structures. This can result in joint weakness, instability, and deformities that can interfere with the most basic daily tasks.
Arthritis is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia, with 3.85 million Australians affected at a cost to our economy of more than $23.9 billion each year in medical care and indirect costs such as loss of earnings and lost production.
There is a widely held belief that arthritis is simply a consequence of age, the pain of growing old. But it is not a natural part of ageing. In fact 2.4 million of all people suffering from the disease are of working age.
While there are about 100 forms of arthritis, the three most significant – osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout – account for more than 95 per cent of cases in Australia.