Arthritis: MP Huw Irranca-Davies 'tried anything' for pain

Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies was not diagnosed until late in life

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An MP says he resorted to mail-order medicine to cope with the debilitating pain he endured from a form of arthritis.

Ogmore MP Huw Irranca-Davies is calling for improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of ankylosing spondylitis.

He tried homeopathic treatments and "vile concoctions involving exotic mushrooms from Russia" in an attempt to deal with the symptoms.

Around 200,000 people in the UK are thought to have the condition.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that can cause the spine to fuse, but can also affect other parts of the body.

Start Quote

No one had diagnosed any condition for me. So I was trying anything”

End Quote Huw Irranca-Davies MP Ogmore

During a debate in Parliament on Monday, Labour MP Mr Irranca-Davies will reveal how he was diagnosed late in life.

He will describe how he started getting a stiff neck and spine as a badminton player in his youth.

"I just thought it was part of a sporting life. You creak a bit," he says.

However, by his late twenties the stiffness and pain was debilitating and started affecting his general health.

"I had been to see GPs over the years since my teens," he adds.

"I had been given strong painkillers, sometimes steroids, I had been to see masseurs and chiropractors who had stretched and crunched me, worked out the knots in my neck and applied various odious potions, I had resorted to homeopathic medicines including vile concoctions involving exotic mushrooms from Russia - complete with handbook - and various mail-order medicines.

"Some of these were harmless, but useless. Others were probably directly detrimental to my health, and antagonizing the condition.

"Yet of course at this stage, no one had diagnosed any condition for me. So I was trying anything."

Occasional flare-ups would leave his ankles, knees and hips "screaming with pain" every few months.

He was forced to use crutches during a severe bout in 2003. The episode meant it took him 15 minutes to cross the House of Commons voting lobby.

Only then did he see an AS specialist who put him on medication called anti-TNFs (anti-tumour necrosis factor alpha) - drugs that can help to reduce symptoms such as joint pain.

Mr Davies said patients should have information about the full range of therapies available to them, including anti-TNFs.

He also called for the use of MRI scanning, instead of X-rays, to diagnose the conditions.

Mr Irranca-Davies says that other sufferers of AS include former English cricket captain Mike Atherton, rock guitarist Mick Mars of Motley Crue, Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg and Russian world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik.

The National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) said that although it is more expensive, MRI can help spot the condition before irreversible damage is done.

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