Arthritis treatment has improved considerably over the last 10 years and the outlook is positive for people using modern medications such as biological therapies.
Sometimes people improve a lot but still have to take medication to stop their arthritis from getting worse again. People can also go into remission (their symptoms go away) and find that they no longer need treatment.
Joseph has been in remission for two years. He no longer experiences any symptoms. His biggest…
According to Arthritis Research UK (2015), around 70% of young people with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) go into remission. This means that around 30% of young people find that their arthritis remains active into adult life.
Some young adults with JIA have joint damage that might limit their daily activities and a few may need joint replacements. Occasionally if arthritis has not been controlled in childhood, or steroids have been used in high doses for many years, people can be physically smaller than average or develop osteoporosis. However, because of modern treatments the majority of people do not experience such problems.
Most of the people we talked to had ongoing symptoms. In this section we talk about these symptoms and how they changed over time. Most commonly people described how swelling and pain spread from the first place they had noticed it to other parts of their body.
The number of joints affected by arthritis
The people we spoke to sometimes said that more joints became affected over time. People talked about different areas of the body being affected such as toes, ankles, knees, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, necks, jaws and areas of the spine. Some people said certain joints were affected but others said arthritis affected every joint.
Gemma has pain all over but her knees are worse. Her back and neck have been hurting ever since she had an accident whilst climbing.
Jazmin has arthritis in all of her joints but said that her fingers, wrists and ankles hurt the most.
When arthritis extends to another joint it may happen suddenly or be a gradual process that takes months or years. For example, when Dean had a new joint affected it happened “straightaway”. Elly said that her arthritis extended “quite quickly” from her hands to her feet but then “gradually moved everywhere” as she grew up. Lu’s arthritis started in her small joints such as her knuckles, fingers and wrists. Over the next two years she developed problems with her toes, feet, ankles, elbows and knees and shoulders.
Tina’s daughter, Lucy, got worse after diagnosis. Her condition declined overnight. At the time…
As a child, Elizabeth’s knees were affected and she developed iritis. Her arthritis started to…
Different symptoms in different parts of the body
People’s symptoms may also depend on the area affected. Cat said that she gets achy cramps in her ankles, throbbing pain in her shoulder and her neck feels stiff and uncomfortable. Muscle weakness was sometimes talked about too.
Physical activity has been proven to be very important in protecting joints affected by arthritis. By improving muscle strength, less strain is put on the joint. An occupational therapist, physiotherapist or nurse specialist can advise on pacing to gradually increase physical activities (see Staying fit and healthy).
Catherine’s arthritis has affected different parts of her body at different times.
Describing pain and other symptoms
People sometimes used graphic language to describe how the pain got worse. Kyrun said to imagine what it feels like to rub their knuckles against a cheese grater until they hit the bone. Catherine said that she gets a painful “grinding” sensation when she walks. Chantelle said it feels like “tooth freeze” in her joints. Creaking or clicking feelings were also common.
When Zoe walks up the stairs her knees creak and hurt. They sometimes burn. She says they feel…
Several people said that they lived with the pain so long they have got used to it.
People reported stiffness, aches and swelling in different parts of the body, and they could not always be sure which parts of the body would be affected each time.
Zoe’s joints get “squishy when there is a build-up of fluid in them. People also mentioned that their joints would be hot to touch during a flare-up. Deni said that her joints become “boiling hot” like “hot irons” or “hot coals”. Treatment aims to reduce the number of flares people have. If you are experiencing frequent flares (hot, swollen stiff joints) you should discuss this with your rheumatology team. They can advise you on how to relieve the symptoms of a flare for short periods, or your medication may need to be adjusted.
Symptoms that come and go
A paediatric rheumatologist explains that young people with arthritis can have good spells and…
Caitriona’s arthritis is better when it is warm and dry. She knows when it is going to rain…
Joseph has a flare up when he has done something physical, like walking to the shops. He does not…
Cat suffers from fatigue every day. Other people have a hard time understanding how tired she…
Jazmin has arthritis in her wrist and cannot move it as much as she used to. X-rays show that her…
Cat said her hip replacement completely changed her life. Without it she would have been in a…
Symptoms improving and remission