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15th October 2018

Arthritis is definitely not the end of everything

Donna Roberts is one of the approximately 350 million people worldwide who have arthritis, but the self-proclaimed “queen of the to-do list” doesn’t let that get in the way of her busy life.

It started nearly 18 years ago, when Donna began experiencing fatigue as well as hands and fingers that were red and hot to the touch, and so swollen that she couldn’t bend them. When the symptoms hadn’t improved a year and a half later, she decided to visit her GP.

Getting a diagnosis was tricky, however, and it took months of blood tests to rule out other illnesses before Donna found out that she had psoriatic arthritis (PsA). “By the time I was diagnosed I was pretty much elated just to put a name to it,” she tells This Is MedTech. “I’d never heard of psoriatic arthritis, although I’ve had psoriasis since age eight.”

There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis and related diseases. The most common types include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, PsA, fibromyalgia and gout. All of them cause pain in different ways. According to UK charity Versus Arthritis, PsA usually affects people who already have psoriasis, an autoimmune skin condition that causes a red, scaly rash. It’s not yet known exactly what triggers the inflammation in PsA, but experts believe that genetics may play a role.

“Once I was diagnosed I was given a specific pain medication regime. The GP explained that once my pain was managed, I could get moving more and this would help with general wellbeing,” comments Donna.

Indeed, getting an early diagnosis for any type of arthritis is extremely important. Versus Arthritis notes that pain isn’t just a physical sensation – it can have emotional effects, especially if the cause of the pain isn’t clear or if it’s difficult to find effective pain relief.

Although Donna still experiences pain and “bone deep” fatigue, the 49-year-old civil servant gets on with her life. “My sleep pattern is interrupted mostly every night and a broken sleep pattern means it’s tough to concentrate,” she says. “But it’s also important to get up every day and accomplish something … I’m the queen of the to-do list!”

True to her word, she’s even made a list with top tips for others with arthritis:

• Get your pain medication regime sorted

• Get eating nutritiously

• Plan your days – rest, eat and hydrate ahead of special occasions

• Learn to practice self-care and make time for the things you enjoy (reading, coffee date, clothes shopping, etc.)

• Ask for help if you need it

• Tell yourself you’ll get through this because you will

For more support, Versus Arthritis has two advice pages – Managing Symptoms and Living with Arthritis – which offer information on pain management, diet, exercise, sleep, etc.

World Arthritis Day is organised by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and takes place on 12th October every year. The EULAR’s “Don’t Delay, Connect Today” campaign raises and promotes awareness of the symptoms connected to rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases and the importance of gaining early diagnosis and access to care.

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