Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, surrounding tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It can affect virtually every joint of the body from the feet, to the knees, back, shoulders, and fingers. The term Arthritis describes a variety of arthritic conditions, with the three most common forms being Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gout.
Symptoms will vary depending on the type of Arthritis, and include slight pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints, through to extreme disability and joint deformity.
For more information refer to the topics on specific types of Arthritis. The three types of arthritis include:
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease and is the most common form of Arthritis. This joint degeneration results in pain, deformity and a reduced range of motion. There is generally no inflammation.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory type of Arthritis in which joints are equally red, swollen and tender on both sides of the body. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease and typically affects the hands, feet, wrists, ankles and knees. This type of Arthritis may cause destruction and disfiguration of the affected joints.
Gout is an arthritic condition of the body connected with an excess of uric acid in the blood. It causes the joints to become red, swollen and painful. The most common area on the body for Gout to occur is the joint of the big toe. Gout is not a single disease but is a syndrome resulting from high levels of uric acid in the blood.
The treatment of Arthritis depends on the type of Arthritis. There are various causative factors associated with Arthritis which need to be identified. For detailed information and treatment refer to the topic on the specific type of Arthritis.
- The diet generally should be rich in fish oil e.g., salmon, tuna, mackerel and mullet. Fish oils may help to regulate the inflammatory process.
- It is recommended to include vitamin C rich foods in the diet e.g., apples, pears, berries, pawpaw and green vegetables. Vitamin C plays a role in the formation and maintenance of connective tissue and collagen, which provides stability and strength to joints.
- Foods rich in silicon may be beneficial for people with Arthritis. These include wholegrain cereals, nuts and apple.
- Weight control is important. This will help minimise the load on inflamed joints.
- Certain food groups such as the "nightshade" vegetables (potato, tomato, eggplant, chilli and capsicum) and salicylate-rich foods (see examples in the Hives and Hyperactivity Diet topic) may aggravate Arthritis.
- Avoid acid forming foods such as red meat and sugar.
- People with Gout should avoid foods high in purines. These include liver, kidney, heart, brains, pate, sardines, herrings, anchovies, mackerel, yeast and yeast products, beer, asparagus and yeast products.
Nutritional supplements are only to be used if the dietary vitamin intake is inadequate.
- Glucosamine and Mucopolysaccharides can be taken to aid connective tissue support.
- Devil's claw, feverfew, celery and white willow bark have been traditionally used to relieve pain and inflammation associated with Arthritis.
- Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme derived from pineapple, may provide symptomatic relief.
- Vitamin C with bioflavonoids are believed to have a positive effect on cartilage degeneration.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be anti-inflammatory.
- Zinc is believed to support the immune system and help reduce inflammation.
Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
- Your Pharmacist can assist with some anti-inflammatory pain relief tablets. It is important to ask your Pharmacist to recommend the most suitable pain reliever for the type of Arthritis.
- Remember to exercise according to the advice of your Doctor or Physiotherapist. A range of special exercises, such as daily stretching, might be suggested to help improve circulation and flexibility.
- Avoid activities which place a heavy amount of stress on the joints.
- Some relief for Arthritis may be obtained from applying heat if the joints are stiff or a cold pack if the joints are warm and swollen. Massage, relaxation, exercise, liniments and joint wraps may also help to relieve the symptoms of the disease. Some creams may give relief. Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
- Some nutritional supplements may be considered if the diet is inadequate. See individual topics.
- Your Pharmacist may suggest a suitable pain relief medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDsmay also be suggested. Take these only after advice from your Pharmacist as there are possible side effects.