Arthritis Awareness Week is March 29th to April 4th, an initiative of Arthritis Australia, and is a time of promotional and educational activities, held around the country, to raise awareness about arthritis, its effects, and the various treatment and management options available.
Arthritis Australia hopes that these activities will make all Australians aware that arthritis is not a natural part of ageing but a disease that affects many people of working age and also children.
Arthritis includes more than 100 different diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter’s syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), that affect the musculoskeletal system.
Pain, stiffness, inflammation, and damage to the cartilage, bones and other structures within the joints are all common manifestations of arthritis. Although it cannot be cured, the symptoms and impacts of arthritis can be reduced through early diagnosis and appropriate treatment and management.
An estimated three million Australians – 15 per cent of the population – have some form of arthritis, the most common types being osteoarthritis (affecting more than 1.5 million Australians) and rheumatoid arthritis (affecting around 491,000 Australians).
Although the number of people who have arthritis increases with age, about one in every four Australians with arthritis are less than 50 years of age and there are an estimated 4600 Australians with arthritis who are less than 16 years.
In 2003, around 34 per cent of people with a disability reported that arthritis or another musculoskeletal condition was their main disabling condition.
In 2004-05, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions accounted for the fourth highest amount of direct health expenditure at a total of $4 billion. Close to one-third of this amount was spent on osteoarthritis, with hospital inpatient costs accounting for a large proportion.
In cases of severe osteoarthritis, people may have their symptoms relieved and joint function improved through joint replacement. More than 17,000 total hip replacements and almost 25,000 total knee replacements for arthritis were performed in Australian hospitals in 2006-07, most of these for osteoarthritis.