Campaigners have warned that Scotland is facing an unseen public health crisis as the number of people with arthritis is set to double by 2030.
The agonising condition is already the biggest cause of pain and disability in Scotland, affecting more than 900,000 people, with numbers expected to rise to 1.8 million in less than 15 years.
Soaring figures have been blamed on rising obesity levels and Scotland’s ageing population.
Charity campaigners have claimed it will heap pressure on the NHS and the Scottish welfare system.
Patients have complained of feeling invisible due to a lack of understanding of the condition, which can force sufferers to give up work and become isolated.
Angela Donaldson-Bruce, director of Arthritis Care Scotland, said: “People living with arthritis in Scotland have told us that they feel invisible and that their condition is not understood.
“Too often seen as a condition of old age, arthritis in fact impacts on all ages, from children and young people to the working age population and older people.
“As the number of people with arthritis doubles over the coming years, this is a voice that simply cannot be ignored.”
A lack of targeted services and tough welfare reforms are making the situation even more difficult for sufferers, the charity said.
Rheumatology services across Scotland are facing shortages of specialist nurses, trainees and allied health professionals, according to the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR).
A recent BSR survey found more than 90 per cent of Scottish health professionals working in rheumatology units believed their service was not sufficiently staffed.
Only a quarter of respondents said their service was working in the community, and just 9 per cent described collaboration with social services.
Finding better ways to treat widespread conditions like arthritis could help the whole of society, said Dr Jean Turner, patron of the Scotland Patients Association.
Dr Turner, who has also suffered from arthritis herself, said: “Often people think it is just aches and pains, and something you have to live with.
“I do think there is a great problem with understanding arthritis, particularly for young people with the condition, as it can be a very debilitating thing.
“Sometimes people feel ignored by GPs who feel there is nothing much they can do.
“I think we could save ourselves a great deal of money as a society if we could keep people out of hospital and as mobile as possible.
“If people are not getting the support they need then that can cause problems down the line.”