There are two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis – which accounts for around 80% of all cases – and rheumatoid arthritis.

From these, there are over 100 types of arthritis including ankylosing spondylitis, cervical spondylosis, fibromyalgia, gout, lupus and systemic lupus, enteropathic and reactive arthritis.


Symptoms of arthritis

Osteoarthritis causes joints – particularly the knees, hands, hips and spine – to become less flexible and painful. This is because cartilage, the flexible tissue which facilitates the smooth operation of joints, has deteriorated. As the condition worsens and cartilage gets thinner and less flexible the bones in a joint can chafe.Unlike osteoarthritis which can affect people of all ages and genders, rheumatoid arthritis typically strikes in middle age and is much more likely to develop in women. Here the synovium, a capsule which surrounds and protects joints, becomes inflamed causing it to stretch, making the affected joint feel and painful. Rheumatoid arthritis may cause fatigue, loss of appetite and an elevated temperature.


Causes and risk factors of arthritis

Many things can cause or increase the risk of suffering from arthritis. These depend upon the type of arthritis and typically is not one but a combination of things which are to blame.The risk of developing arthritis can be increased by lifestyle choices. Among arthritis risk factors are smoking and having a job that is physically demand. An injury may also provide a trigger. Being overweight also places undue pressure on the joints.

The causes of rheumatoid arthritis remain unclear although it is thought infection may be a trigger and people carrying a particular genetic marker are more susceptible to the condition. Some types of arthritis may be inherited.


Can you prevent arthritis?

The short answer is “no”, but you may be able minimise the risk of developing certain types of arthritis or slow its onset.Not smoking, or stopping, is an obvious starting point whilst maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the chances of rheumatoid arthritis taking hold, as, some research suggests, can a diet rich in Omega 3, the fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel.

Exercising is always good but make sure you take steps to protect your body from injury (by using the correct footwear and appropriate protective gear) and try and take part in a variety of activities. Regular exercise and a healthy diet will of course also help you maintain a healthy bodyweight.


Is arthritis covered by private health insurance?

Arthritis is a chronic condition and as such if you have already had a diagnosis you will not typically be covered by private medical insurance. However, some policies may provide access to some treatment in the event of an acute flare up of your arthritis, but this will depend upon your health insurance provider.


If you develop a form of arthritis once you have taken out your health insurance then you may be covered, but this will depend upon your health insurance provider and be subject to any limits and exclusions contained in your policy.

You should always seek expert advice before taking out a private medical insurance policy and make sure you understand any limits or exclusions that may apply.


Which treatments for arthritis might private health insurance cover?

As private health insurance does not typically cover arthritis then most treatment is likely to be provided by the NHS. However it is possible that some policies will offer you access to certain short-term treatments and therapies should you suffer an arthritis flare. These could include physiotherapy and complementary therapies.

Many health insurance policies do offer benefits that may help you pursue a healthier lifestyle which may minimise your risk of developing arthritis or slow its onset.

These include things like discounted gym memberships and wider health and wellbeing programmes which offer expert lifestyle and medical advice. Providers offering such programmes include AvivaAXA PPPBUPA and Vitality.

In addition, health cash plan specialist Health Shield also offers cheap gym membership alongside health check ups.