The theme of World Arthritis Day is summed up in the slogan ‘Don’t delay, connect today’. This is a really important message when it comes to arthritis, because too often people dismiss these “few aches and pains”, living in hope that they will pass.

We know, however, that early diagnosis of arthritis and access to care are key to better long-term outcomes. Autoimmune types of arthritis, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), can impact other organs (heart, eyes and lungs) if ignored or left undiagnosed. This can ultimately increase mortality. Too few people are aware of these risks.

Let’s not forget either that arthritis is the biggest cause of disability in Ireland.

 

Arthritis can affect anyone

 

There’s a general perception that arthritis is something that just old people get. However, the reality is very different: arthritis can affect people of any age – including children. Close to one million people have arthritis in Ireland; 165,000 of them under the age of 55. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is the most common inflammatory disorder of childhood and affects 1,200 children and young people under 16.

This autumn, Arthritis Ireland is organising a number of awareness campaigns around rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, and pregnancy and arthritis. The purposes of the campaigns are to increase awareness and understanding of these different disease types, and to provide information and support to those living with arthritis.

This latter point is especially important for people living with this invisible disease, as they can often feel misunderstood. 

 

Misunderstood by friends and family

 

Aoife McCoy (30) from Tyrellspass, Co. Westmeath said that people found it hard to understand that she was in pain all of the time. 

“They couldn’t understand how I was still tired after a full night’s sleep. As a young woman in her early 20s, I couldn’t go out with my friends every weekend. 

“We [people living with arthritis] become a list of symptoms, medication rituals and Epsom salt baths; that that’s all we are anymore. We either are abandoned by friends and family who don’t understand and don’t want to say the wrong thing, or we hide ourselves away, not wanting to show our true selves,” she says.

 

Taking control of living with arthritis

 

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are things that you can do to reduce the impact of the disease on your life. Healthy eating and exercise are central, while undertaking a self-management course has been proven to decrease pain, reduce reliance on health professionals and medication, and improve a person’s overall sense of well-being.

Ultimately, it comes back to being attentive to your body, to living healthily and to being a pro-active self-manager. Don’t delay, connect today – it’s a powerful message this World Arthritis Day. #ConnectToday.

 

Arthritis Ireland is the national patient organisation representing people living with arthritis in Ireland. To learn how they can support you visit www.arthritisireland.ie or call 01 661 8188/1890 252 846.