As our bodies age, it’s not uncommon to feel stiffness in our joints, along with a few extra aches and pains. However, those aches and pains can also be an early sign of arthritis. Over 100 different types of diseases are characterized as some form of arthritis by inflammation in the joints and other areas of the body. Left untreated, this inflammation can lead to significant damage to the affected areas, resulting in loss of function and disability.
While you’re more likely to get arthritis as you age, two thirds of people with arthritis are below the age of 65. Most people with arthritis experience chronic pain, fatigue, restricted mobility, lowered mood and other symptoms that can combine to erode their quality of life. For millions of Canadians, arthritis can threaten their ability to enjoy freedom of movement, productive work, restful sleep, and an existence free of unnecessary pain.
Arthritis most commonly affects the hip, knee, spine or other weight-bearing joints. However, it’s also common in the fingers and other non-weight-bearing joints as well. Arthritis is a chronic condition that affects 4.6 million Canadians – in other words, one in every six adults is dealing with chronic pain and discomfort in their life on a daily basis. Symptoms tend to be more common in women than men and affects certain ethnic groups more than others – for example, Hispanic and Black individuals suffer more from arthritis than Caucasians.
Types of Arthritis
Arthritis conditions are broadly grouped into two categories:
- Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more Canadians than all other forms of arthritis combined and often referred to as the “wear-and-tear” kind of arthritis. Osteoarthritis leads to the breakdown of cartilage (the tough elastic material that covers and protects the ends of bones), and the resulting bone-on-bone contact can cause pain, stiffness, swelling and reduced range of movement in the affected joint(s).
The joints most commonly affected by osteoarthritis are the knees, hips and those in the hands and spine.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is caused by inflammation rather than the wearing down of cartilage. Most forms of inflammatory arthritis can also be classified as autoimmune diseases, where the immune system – the body’s defense system against infections and other invaders – mistakenly starts to attack the body’s own healthy tissues.
Rheumatoid arthritis can result in pain, stiffness, restricted mobility, fatigue and damage to joints and other tissues. If not identified and treated swiftly, rheumatoid arthritis can progress more quickly and aggressively than osteoarthritis.
Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Curable?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis – but the disease can be treated to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
Common treatments include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease symptoms, such as over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Or drugs that slow disease symptoms like corticosteroids, a class of powerful and quick-acting anti-inflammatories that can be used to help get inflammation under control. Another class of drug used to combat arthritis symptoms are known as DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs) which work to modify the course and development of arthritis.
Omega-3 and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may also help control arthritis-related pain. The impact of omega-3 supplementation on rheumatoid arthritis has been a focus for researchers for some time and includes systematic reviews and meta-analysis on the topic. For example, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the 2018 edition of the Nutrition journal reported favorable results for omega-3 fatty acids across 20 randomized controlled trials.
To manage arthritis pain with omega-3, look for an omega-3 supplement with a daily dose of at least 2800 mg/day. One popular choice is the Canadian omega-3 brand NutraSea – they offer a range of omega-3 supplements including new Targeted Omega-3 NutraSea Arthritis, specifically formulated to reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in conjunction with conventional therapy.
While arthritis can seriously affect your quality of life, it’s important to work with a health care provider to determine which management strategy is best suited to help manage symptoms and help you to get back to doing all the things in life you love.