In honour of Arthritis Month, UBC’s Diane Lacaille discusses what’s being done for arthritis sufferers
As Arthritis Awareness Month draws to a close, Diane Lacaille, an associate professor in UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Division of Rheumatology and the Mary Pack Chair in Rheumatology at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, shares insights into the causes and management of arthritis.
What is the primary cause of arthritis?
People tend to think of arthritis as one disease, but there are actually more than 100 different types of arthritis – that’s why it’s sometimes called the disease of many faces.
The most common type is osteoarthritis, which is caused by the inability of joints to repair themselves, leading to increased wear and tear. This may be due to prior injuries or obesity, which puts extra burden on the joints. While it’s more common with age, it’s important to note that it is not a normal part of aging and that it doesn’t only occur in older people.
Then there’s inflammatory arthritis, which is caused by the immune system reacting against itself. Examples include psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis.
Can we prevent it?
There is currently no cure for arthritis but we have very effective medications that can control the disease and prevent joint damage. We are starting to understand what causes osteoarthritis, which may help us prevent or delay it. For example, preventing and properly treating injuries in our youth can reduce the chances of osteoarthritis down the road.
With rheumatoid arthritis, our goal is to eradicate the inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes heart disease, which in turn leads to premature death. But people need to recognize signs of arthritis and begin treatment early. With early and persistent treatment, we can prevent joint damage and reduce the risk of death. Some medications have been shown to lower the risk of premature death by 60 per cent.
What is being done to help?
We’re working with the BC Medical Association and the Ministry of Health to help family physicians recognize inflammatory arthritis early and treat according to current recommendations. We’re also analyzing data from everyone in BC with arthritis to see how the disease causes complications, like heart diseases or premature death, and how medications used to treat the disease affects this risk., We hope that our research will enhance quality of care.