Body & Fitness

Out of joint

There aren't many families who aren't touched by arthritis. While we tend to think of it as an inevitable part of getting old, it can affect people at any age and in some cases, be utterly crippling. There is no cure, but here are things sufferers may be able to do to make life easier.
  • Arthritis is the single greatest cause of disability in New Zealand.

  • More than 530,000 New Zealanders aged 15 or over are living with at least one type of arthritis.

  • over half are female and of working age (15 to 64).

  • over 25,000 Kiwis have not been able to work this year because of arthritis.

  • Arthritis affects people of all ages, from infants through to the elderly, and it can strike at any time.

  • More than 1000 children and teenagers under 18 have arthritis.

  • It’s estimated that arthritis will cost this country $3.2 billion this year.

  • In this country there is a shortage of rheumatologists available to treat arthritis sufferers.

  • There are more than 140 different types of arthritis. The most common are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

  • osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis – almost half of all people over 60 and just about everyone over 80 will get it.

  • Known as “wear and tear” or “degenerative” arthritis, osteoarthritis is due to mechanical breakdown in the structures affecting the joints.

  • It usually affects the large weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips and spine.

  • There are several factors that can play a part in the development of osteoarthritis. These include age, having had injuries that affect your joints and being obese.

  • Some forms of osteoarthritis run in families, especially those that affect the small joints of the fingers.

  • Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, swelling, stiffness and bony growths (in finger joints).

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition that is caused by changes in the immune system. It causes inflammation in joints, but may also affect other parts of the body.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis affects three times as many women as men.

  • Around 40,000 Kiwis have RA.

  • Smokers have a higher rate of RA than non-smokers.

  • People with RA have a high risk of developing heart disease.

  • Signs of RA include uncomfortable and swollen joints in the fingers, wrists or balls of the feet, fatigue, and feeling stiff when you wake up in the morning.

  • RA symptoms can come and go.

  • Gout occurs as an acute attack, often coming on overnight. It causes severe pain and swelling in the affected joint, which may also become red and shiny.

  • Gout affects one or two joints at a time – most often in the feet and ankles. The ball of the big toe is the most common site.

  • It is mostly men who get gout – it’s quite rare in women until after menopause.

  • Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood, which causes tiny crystals to form in the joint. These cause inflammation and pain.

  • The main reasons for developing gout are genes, obesity, a high intake of alcohol, some blood-pressure drugs, kidney disease and eating lots of foods contain purines.

  • Foods containing purines include offal (liver, kidney, tripe, sweetbreads and tongue), shellfish, fish roe and scallops, and peas, lentils and beans. You should also cut down on red meat.

  • There is no cure for arthritis but treatments for some forms of arthritis mean you can be in remission.

  • For more information, visit

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