Warning over arthritis 'time bomb'

X-ray showing an arthritic joint
Joint pain and stiffness is increasingly affecting more people at a younger age Photo: ITV News Wales

A report released today by Arthritis Care details how more than 400,000 people in Wales are suffering the effects of osteoarthritis. The charity's research shows that people here are more likely to get the condition, which causes pain and stiffness in joints, at a younger age, compared to others around the UK. Nearly a third of sufferers are diagnosed with the most common type of arthritis under the age of 45.

Experts behind the report, called OANation 2012, predict the number of people who sufferer from the condition will rise dramatically over the next twenty years. They say the UK is facing an osteoarthritis 'time bomb' as cases across Britain double from 8.5 million to 17 million by 2030, chiefly due to rising obesity rates and an ageing population.

The key Welsh findings from the OANation 2012 report are:

  • 420,896 people in Wales have osteoarthritis
  • 32% of them are diagnosed under the age of 45 - more than in any other region
  • 59% of them have been forced to give up, or reduce, walking, due to osteoarthritis
  • 87% of them are worried about keeping their independence, due to osteoarthritis

Arthritis Care's report highlights the effect the condition has on people's lives. The majority of osteoarthritis sufferers questioned said they are in some degree of constant pain, and a small percentage described that pain as 'unbearable.' Many people have to give up work, or retire early.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, most frequently seen in the hands, knees, hips, feet and spine. It usually develops gradually over time, when changes in the cartilage (soft tissue that protects the bone surface) affect how joints work. Pain and stiffness of joints are the prominent symptoms.

The condition is most often treated with painkillers to reduce pain, or other drugs that reduce inflammation. Sufferers are also often advised to do exercise or massage joints and muscles, or lose weight to reduce strain on joints.