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Arthritis conditions have a serious impact on both individual health and the healthcare system across the UK. Around 10 million people over the UK suffer from some form of arthritis*, the most common forms being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Over 30% of GP consultations are related to a musculoskeletal condition.

Health and safety executive reports state that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSKDs) in Great Britain remain an ill health related condition that places significant burdens on employers and employees accounting for 41% of all work related ill health. With approximately 15% of the population affected, arthritis is a real problem needing to be tackled, treated, and prevented. Dr Taher Mahmud of the London Osteoporosis Clinic discusses why he believes arthritis should be treated as a medical emergency.

The impact of early arthritis symptoms

Most people think arthritis is inevitable, and many assign themselves to the fact that they will develop it at some point in their lives – especially if other family members have the condition. Early symptoms can often be ignored, or pushed aside, meaning the progression of arthritis is not slowed, and damage is done to the muscle and bone.

At the London Osteoporosis Clinic, we believe that arthritis should be taken incredibly seriously in its early stages, and in fact treated as a medical emergency, simply because of how much the early treatment of arthritis symptoms has impact on the lives of those with the condition.

Early symptoms may not be particularly grave in themselves, but they can lead to changes in bone and muscle, which means the patient experiences a reduction, perhaps even without thinking, in daily activities, energy, and general vitality. This greatly impacts the sufferer’s life, as they over time will not be as productive, and irreversible damage can be done to the bones and joints; as well as impacting negatively on work and home activities.

Treatment of early arthritis symptoms

Evidence supports that if spotted early, treatment for arthritis and rheumatic conditions is more effective. Symptoms and conditions are more likely to go into remission, and the joint and muscles are less likely to be permanently damaged, which means disability and surgery can be avoided.

The approach involves nutrition, exercise and where necessary drugs, injection(s), and aggressive treatment, can reduce the rate of progression of the condition, or even put it into remission. Many patients are reluctant to take drugs and medication, but in the case of arthritis, prevention is better than allowing disability and loss of function to accumulate, considering the impact these have on work and home life. With early treatment damage can be avoided and the individual is more likely to achieve remission with drugs, or even drug-free remission.

Watch for the symptoms of arthritis – know what to be aware of

Early symptoms of arthritis include:

· Fatigue with no obvious cause

· Pain and stiffness in joints

· Minor joint swelling, which may not be permanent, but rather flare up on occasion

· Low-grade fever (fever above 38° is usually associated with infection or another form of illness)

· The inability to bend or straighten certain joints

· Tingling sensations, or numbness in the joints and tendons

· General weakness

· Difficulty sleeping

· A loss in appetite, and/or weight loss

· A dry mouth, or dry itchy eyes

Most will display a variety of symptoms. Many who experience these symptoms do not talk to their doctor as they think nothing can be done – but the earlier you catch arthritis, the better. Joint and bone health is an important part of our lives, and it can seriously affect you when it comes to future health issues. If in doubt, check the symptoms out – help and support is always there.

*http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/data-and-statistics.aspx