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Rebecca Barnard

2017-04-20 10:18

Guest Blog: Meet Arthritis Research UK CEO Liam O'Toole

Arthritis Research UK CEO, Liam O'Toole

Arthritis is the biggest cause of pain and disability in the UK. It affects over 10 million people, of all ages. This has serious economic consequences and a massive impact on people's lives. Musculoskeletal conditions account for the third largest area of NHS spending, and the pain that they cause can lock people into a cycle of anxiety, fatigue and depression.

Everything Arthritis Research UK does is dedicated to limiting the effects of arthritis, and it is in this context that we fund research that harnesses the power of exceptional science. As well as funding research, we provide information on the various types of arthritis; hold events, have information on managing pain, fatigue and pain killers; and provide information about exercises to help with arthritis.

Our success in funding research to limit the impact of arthritis is most recently demonstrated by our pioneering development of anti-TNF therapy, which has transformed the treatment of inflammatory arthritis for millions of people around the world.

But we also want to listen to people with arthritis so that we can better understand the pain that prevents them from doing the things many of us take for granted: walking, moving, lifting or standing.

It's in this context that Arthritis Research UK is funding the Cloudy with a Chance of Pain project. How weather affects health has been a question people have considered for thousands of years and, despite the fact it might sound like an old wives' tale, we think this project has the potential to help us to better understand, and manage, pain caused by arthritis.

We know that there are more diagnoses of rheumatoid arthritis in winter, and that people suffer from painful flare ups of RA during colder months. One explanation for why people report increasing pain just before bad weather is changes in air pressure; certain people's joints may be susceptible to this change in pressure, which causes them discomfort.

So, is it the weather that makes a difference, or could it be that staying indoors exacerbates painful joints, or that people exercise less frequently when the weather is poor?

No matter what the connection is, as an organisation devoted to pushing back the limits of arthritis we want to properly investigate the testimonies of people who say there is a link between their pain and the weather.

This is the biggest experiment there has ever been into investigating the connections between the weather and pain. We're excited for the data to be collected and analysed so that we can start to think about how we can continue to limit the effect of arthritis on people's lives.

For more information on arthritis and support visit the Arthritis Research UK website.