Dr Siân Bevan, Chief Science Officer of the Arthritis Society describes how arthritis impacts six million Canadians and counting
For more than 13 years, Consuelo Benson has lived with daily pain. The severity and location can change from day-to-day, but it’s there in her elbows, feet, knees, hands and neck.
Benson is just one of the six million Canadians – one in five – who live with arthritis. It’s Canada’s most common chronic condition, causing devastating pain, restricted mobility and a diminished quality of life. And because of the ageing population, the number of Canadians with the disease is expected to grow to nine million by 2040.
Yet arthritis is often misunderstood and downplayed.
As Canada’s national arthritis charity, the Arthritis Society is working to lift the veil on this often-overlooked disease. We fund research, provide information and support to Canadians with arthritis and advocate to all levels of government about issues that affect their lives.
Arthritis in Canada
The situation in Canada is similar to other Western nations. In the past 30 years, osteoarthritis diagnoses, for example, have increased in Europe by 36%. With an ageing global population, it’s expected this increase will only continue.
And while age is associated with arthritis, the belief that it only happens to you when you get old is a myth. The reality is that arthritis is robbing people of all ages of their ability to move, function well in their job and enjoy their family life.
Arthritis strikes people of every age, from young children to adults, and more than half of people in Canada with arthritis are under 65 (including around 24,000 children in Canada). It is a complex disease with more than 100 different types, under the major categories of inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Benson was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis when she was just 40. After what she describes as a “rollercoaster” ride to find the right treatment that worked for her, Benson has learned to live an active life with arthritis. She works both in the travel industry and the entertainment industry; she tries to stay active, and she also gives back by volunteering.
Investments in arthritis research
While arthritis is a serious and growing issue, there has also been progress made because of investments in research. Advancements in medication for rheumatoid arthritis, for example, have been significant. Research has led to new drugs that stop or slow the progression of the disease altogether, and help people better manage pain and have a better quality of life.
Recent research projects supported by the Arthritis Society have looked at non-surgical approaches to treating osteoarthritis, new treatments for scleroderma, the challenges facing young people with rheumatoid arthritis as they enter adulthood, specific cannabis constituents that may help osteoarthritis patients better manage their pain, and how rheumatoid arthritis starts in high-risk populations.
Improving the lives of those with arthritis
Our advocacy work focuses on helping to improve the lives of people living with arthritis. We advocate for improved access to care and treatments, timely care and innovative research. Some examples of our work include advocating for reduced wait times for joint replacement surgery; adoption of a national pharmacare program so that patients have equitable and affordable access to the medication they need no matter where they live in the country; supporting the use of biosimilars in the care and management of inflammatory arthritis; stopping the taxation of medical cannabis and expanding access through allowing pharmacy distribution and encouraging investments in innovative arthritis research.
There is a lot of work to be done, but all of us at the Arthritis Society are up for the challenge. It’s people like Benson and the countless others who generously share their stories who motivate us to keep going towards our goal of one day living in a world where people are free from the devastating effects that arthritis has on their lives. We’re grateful to everyone who shares that goal in Canada and around the world.
To learn more about arthritis or to support our work, visit arthritis.ca.