Arthritic conditions have a big impact on people’s lives causing pain, fatigue and often an inability to work.
- Arthritis is the leading cause of chronic pain and the second most common cause of disability and early retirement due to ill health in Australia.
- 52,000 people (aged 15-64 years) are unable to work due to arthritis. Extra welfare costs and lost tax revenue due to early retirement of arthritis sufferers cost $1.1 billion in 2015.
- Arthritis costs the health system $5.5 billion in 2015 and this will rise to $7.6 billion by 2030.
Judy has rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Judy was in her early 40s when she started getting pain in her lower back and hips. An x-ray revealed she had arthritis in her spine.
‘One morning a year later I woke up and felt I had been hit by a truck,’ Judy said. ‘Another GP sent me for blood tests and a bone scan, and I found out I had lupus and arthritis from neck to toe. He didn’t tell me what type of arthritis I had, he gave me medication which helped for a while. In 2015 I saw a rheumatologist who diagnosed my rheumatoid arthritis.’
Luckily Judy had had her two children in her 20s, so she wasn’t raising them while trying to manage her conditions. However, she worked in the kitchen of a private hospital where she was on her feet most of the time. ‘I worked for four or five years after the initial diagnosis but then I had to retire because of the fatigue,’ she said.
‘The pain and fatigue is worse in summer, I get so tired I can sleep for three hours in the afternoon. I have fibromyalgia as well, which was diagnosed around the same time. Sometimes I don’t know which condition is causing the pain,’ she said.
As far as non-medical treatments go, Judy finds that remedial massage alleviates pain and takes magnesium and vitamin D for her bone health. She does exercises in the pool and walks in cooler weather. For eight years, Judy has run the Newcastle Support Group which has evolved recently to an informal coffee and chat group. ‘People feel isolated with arthritis and its good for them to come along and have a chat. It has been so beneficial for me,’ Judy said. ‘I would hear others’ stories and feel that I was going through the same thing. We understand each other and give each other support and company.’
Thank you to Judy for sharing your story.
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Statistics Source: Arthritis Australia