Comorbidity - Arthritis is more Troublesome Than Parkinson’s

Arthritis is more trouble than Parkinson's - one man's story
Male and female on bikes riding on green grass against blue skies

To provide a general understanding of Parkinson's and arthritis, this article includes information of a medical nature. It should not be used as a substitute for advice from a medical practitioner.

We, at Spring Chicken, have been discussing comorbidity, that is, a medical condition existing simultaneously but independently with another condition in a patient. We were looking at the weight to be attached to the various conditions and how they impacted upon the life of the patient.

Uplifting stuff!

Tony’s Story

There's nothing like discussing illness, particularly one's own, for raising the spirits. In my case, I have 3 main conditions to contend with. Probably the one that gives me the least trouble is a chest problem which renders me vulnerable to bacterial chest infections. It is presently well controlled and is not at all debilitating.

However, I do not allow myself to be complacent about it. I am all too aware that an estimated 40000 people in the U.K. die each year from the impact of air pollution. A statistic which does not offer comfort to those with weak chests!

The "big" condition that has attached itself to me is Parkinson's disease. Living with Parkinson’s for 5 years has let me know that it is certainly a degenerative condition beyond the normal wear and tear. It has slowed me down and made me clumsy. I do not propose to recite the nature of the plethora of irritations that it proposes, because that is not the purpose of this article.

The impact of Parkinson's on my daily life has been substantial, but surprisingly, it has not been the most troublesome.  

That accolade belongs to Arthritis, which has affected my hands. Sadly, a common complaint among people with Arthritis.

About 2 to 3 years ago, I developed pain in the base of my right thumb at the point where it meets the index finger. At first, I put it down to my carrying a rucksack and slotting it between my thumb and index finger.

That analysis was proved wrong as the disability spread to both hands.

The X-rays proved that I had Osteoarthritis, a common type of Arthritis. It caused problems because it limited my flexibility whilst being painful. The only remedy offered was painkillers in the form of cream to be applied.  It was of little help.

By some stroke of luck, about 6 months ago, on a review of my medication generally, my GP suggested a referral to the Hand Clinic. There, it was confirmed to me that I had osteoarthritis. I was referred for physiotherapy.

The physiotherapist was excellent.

She gave me some splints to prevent the wrong muscles from taking inappropriate strain. Within 2 weeks my grip strength in my right hand had improved by 20%. I also suffer less pain. I am due for a further check-up shortly.

The consultant thought that my osteoarthritis seemed very aggressive and erosive and he referred me to a Rheumatologist.

This doctor agreed but was not sure whether the condition had burnt itself out.  It seems that my responses to his examination of my hands showed that I was feeling little or no pain.

He gave me a steroid injection in my backside. This is to remove inflammation so he can make a measured decision. If the condition is still alive, I understand there is treatment available.

So, our hands are so important to us that any trouble with them can be more troubling than more substantial conditions.

What I have learnt is that a referral to the Hand Clinic is invaluable. Many apparent lost causes can be improved.

- Tony Gregory

What is comorbidity?

It's a good thing to be aware of when you go see your GP. The medical term "comorbidity" describes the existence of more than one disease or condition within your body at once.  

Medical professionals use this to both understand and explain how these various aspects may affect you physically, mentally - even though they might not interact with each other. The term comorbidity (sometimes called coexisting) refers specifically to an individual having multiple, usually long-term chronic illnesses that live alongside each other rather than being completely independent of them.

For example, if you have high blood pressure and then get diagnosed with diabetes, then diabetes becomes a comorbidity. This is important as it can affect your care package for both conditions and it is always important to make sure the care professionals are aware of both comorbid conditions.

Comorbidities are on the increase with more and more people developing at least one comorbidity.

  • The 5 most common conditions are
  • Depression
  • High cholesterol (hyperlipidaemia)
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic pulmonary disease (CPD)

Life with Parkinson's and arthritis is not easy, but it is manageable. There are many helpful treatments and strategies available to make life easier. It is crucial to communicate with health professionals about your conditions and any changes as soon as they happen.

As with most medical situations the sooner the problem is identified the quicker it can be rectified. With the right treatment plan and support system in place, people with these conditions can live happy, full lives.  

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