IT may not have the high profile associated with conditions such as cancer and heart disease, but arthritis blights the life of 10million adults and children in the UK, making the simplest of tasks an agonising ordeal.
However, one small Borders charity branch has taken to social media to promote a new annual event which has already raised thousands for research into arthritis.
Such was the success of its inaugural October Challenge that the Melrose branch of Arthritis Research was able to hand over a cheque for £3,500 – in addition to the £3,000 to £4,000 usual amount of annual cash raised.
It is a sum that branch secretary Isobel King hopes will be exceeded later this year when the second October Challenge event is held.
“It was our very first year of doing it and we hadn’t really pushed it, so hopefully this year we can make a lot more and any help TheSouthern can give us to help promote it would be fabulous.”
The only other branch of the charity in the Borders is located in Jedburgh, so Isobel hopes more people will get behind the efforts of the Melrose branch, which has been in existence for over 30 years.
“Arthritis is not an emotive charity – it is a ‘grin and bear it’ charity. Everybody has experience of the condition, whether they’ve got it or somebody in their family has,” she said.
“It effects everybody – it is not a life-threatening condition, but it is a life-changing condition.
“A lot of people say it is a disease of the elderly – it isn’t. Children can get it and in the young it can be devastating.”
Isobel explained: “There is a lot of research at the moment into arthritis among teenagers and adolescents.
“There are facilities to treat arthritis for young children in children’s hospitals, while adults are dealt with in adult wards and clinics, but adolescents fall between two stools – they don’t want to be treated with little children or the elderly and, at that age, going through puberty and all its changes, arthritis is a terrible condition for them.
“Hopefully, within our lifetime, we will see tissue engineering as a cure for arthritis. But as yet, nobody knows what causes it – some will be hereditary, others will be as a result of tissue damage and some will be just sheer bad luck.
“There’s no cure for it yet. There is remedial help like new drugs, but that’s all.”
Isobel says she hopes people looking for a charity to support through a fund-raising effort will consider Arthritis Research as a possible recipient of their generosity.
“So if you’re looking for something to fundraise for, please consider us – it doesn’t even have to be done in October!
“Just get in touch and let us know what doing.
“We have a website and a Facebook page. Last year, we had money raised via everything from ladies holding tea parties in their own homes, to children who did a car wash marathon.”
Dr Ruth Richmond is consultant rheumatologist at the BGH and took part in October Challenge events last year herself.
“In the Borders, the numbers with arthritis will reflect what you see in the population at large. Because people are living longer thanks to improved medical treatments, the numbers of people with arthritis is naturally rising as a result,” she explained.
“Current research is looking at basic things, which might predispose people to developing the condition. But people don’t just have to grin and bear it any longer. GPs are getting better at recognising the symptoms, so the sooner you see your doctor the better.”
And Dr Richmond says the October Challenge is worth supporting: “Not only because it raises funds towards research, but also because it helps raise the profile of arthritis.”
For more information, visit arthritisresearchmelrose.org.uk or on Facebook at October Borders Challenge.