More than 10 million people in the UK suffer with arthritis but the crippling condition remains largely “invisible”, according to campaigners.
Despite being the leading cause of pain and disability in the UK, it has been warned many of those afflicted struggle in silence and so are not receiving the support they need.
Arthritis Research UK is launching a campaign to highlight the impact of the debilitating condition on society.
Research commissioned by the charity predicts the number of working days lost as a result of the two main forms of the condition, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, will rise to 25.9 million by 2030, dealing an annual blow to the economy of £3.43bn.
Combined the conditions currently cost the NHS £10.2bn, some 8.25% of the health budget.
The study also revealed the human cost of arthritis, with more than three-quarters of people with the condition reporting their home and social lives were compromised by the condition, and more than half feeling they were a nuisance to their families.
However, the report found arthritis remained largely “invisible” from the public as the symptoms cannot be physically seen.
There was also the stigma attached to the condition, which is often dismissed as “an old person’s disease”, even though arthritis impacted on people of all ages, and seen as being an inevitable, and even an acceptable, part of getting older.
Liam O’Toole, chief executive of Arthritis Research UK, told Sky News: “It’s the major cause of pain and disability in the UK, it affects 10 million people and yet it’s largely invisible.
“This means that people that are struggling with the pain, fatigue and isolation of arthritis don’t get the support they need.”
He added: “We have this sort of culture of suffer in silence, grin and bear it, it’s what my granny used to suffer from.
“Actually it affects all of us directly and indirectly. We all lose out from it and we want to make sure people don’t suffer in silence.”
Anne Kearl, 55, who has osteoarthritis, said: “Pain is normal to me. It’s always there.
“I never know when I wake up if I’m going to have a good day or a ‘just got to get through it’ day. That’s the reality for me of living with arthritis.”
She added: “Because arthritis is invisible people other than my family don’t see the reality. When friends and colleagues can’t physically see anything wrong with you, they assume you’re OK and often I let people think that rather than be honest about my arthritis.”
For more information about Arthritis Research UK’s #jointproblem campaign click here.