The number of Australians expected to suffer from arthritis would reach seven million by 2050, unless the federal government takes preventative measures, a group of healthcare professionals has warned.
The group has released an expert report on the joint condition, which currently affects three million Australians.
"Arthritis is one of the most common, costly and disabling chronic conditions in the country," said the chief executive of Arthritis Australia, Ainslie Cahill.
"It comes with a bill for the health and welfare systems of more than $5 billion a year."
"This is in addition to an annual loss of $9.4 billion in GDP caused by early retirement due to arthritis," Ms Cahill said.
Contrary to what many think, the disease can and does affect children.
"It's one of the most common of chronic diseases in childhood," paediatric rheumatologist Dr Roger Allen said.
"We know it affects 1 in 1000 children, which is basically the same as juvenile diabetes."
Some Australian studies suggest it could be even more prevalent, affecting 1 in 250 children.
St Monica's Primary school student Patrick McHarg has suffered from juvenile arthritis since he was six years old.
Now 11, he is learning to manage his condition. He continues to play his beloved footie, and hopes one day to turn professional.
"I want to play NRL [when I grow up]," said Patrick, "or be a pilot in the air force."
His mother, Sarah McHarg, said the family has sacrificed a lot because of Patrick's condition.
The hardest part was seeing her son in pain.
"It was scary," she said of the diagnosis.
Ms McHarg has welcomed the Arthritis white paper, saying the government must focus on prevention of the disease.
The report urges the government to look at ways to coordinate healthcare for sufferers, many of whom express dissatisfaction at their treatment and diagnosis.
It also wants an emphasis on prevention through increased exercise and diet programs.
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