Arthritis sufferers have to wait THREE YEARS to be diagnosed condemning them to 'unbearable pain'
00:17 GMT, 9 May 2012
Crippling: Patients with osteoarthritis wait an average of nearly three years to be diagnosed and referred for treatment, according to a report by Arthritis Care
More than a quarter of arthritis sufferers have to visit their GP at least three times to get a diagnosis, a report reveals.
Patients with osteoarthritis, the most common form, wait an average of nearly three years to be diagnosed and referred for treatment.
The number of Britons suffering from the crippling condition is expected to double over the next 20 years due to the ageing population and higher levels of obesity.
There are an estimated 8.5million people with osteoarthritis but by 2030 this will have reached 17million, according to the report by Arthritis Care.
The charity is concerned that many patients are enduring ‘unbearable’ pain, seeing it as an inevitable part of old age but wrongly believing nothing can be done about it.
A survey of 2,000 patients carried out on behalf of the charity found that nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) are in constant pain.
For one in eight, the symptoms severely restrict their daily lives, preventing them from walking or going upstairs.
On average the patients waited 2.8 years from noticing symptoms to being given a diagnosis by their family doctor.
Judith Brodie, chief executive of the charity, blamed the delay on patients’ reluctance to seek help and a lack of awareness among GPs.
She said: ‘Many people, particularly the elderly, are very stoical about pain. They may well think nothing can be done.
‘There’s an issue of awareness among GPs and in primary care about osteoarthritis. It could be a lot better.
‘But our message is that there is something you can do. A lot of people are really denying themselves a good old age.’ The poll also found that patients spent an average of 500 a year of their own money on treatment and travel costs.
Bleak outlook: The number of Britons suffering from the crippling condition is expected to double over the next 20 years due to the ageing population (picture posed by model)
A third said the condition had forced them to retire early or substantially reduce the numbers of hours they worked.
Osteoarthritis, which normally develops after the age of 50, causes damage to the cartilage, the smooth tissue covering joint surfaces, which leads to pain in the hips, knees, hands and feet.
It is more common among the overweight.
There is no cure but the pain can be substantially reduced through exercise, weight loss and some complementary therapies such as acupuncture.
Many patients take regular painkillers such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Experts warn that the surge in the numbers of patients will place huge strain on the health service.
Already the condition is estimated to cost the economy 3.2billion in lost working time.
About 140,000 hip and knee replacements a year are performed on the NHS because of osteoarthritis at a cost of at least 700million.
Philip Conaghan, professor of musculoskeletal medicine at the University of Leeds, said: ‘Britain is facing a tsunami of pain due to osteoarthritis as the number of people over 50 increases dramatically and obesity levels continue to rise.
‘Action is needed immediately. We have to bust this myth that painful joints are an inevitable part of getting older that we have to put up with.’