Get the Facts on Arthritis
Arthritis is one of the most misunderstood diseases in America today. Even though 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis, it is still often thought of as only aches and pains related to aging. In fact, according the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. It is estimated that by 2030, more than 65 million Americans will have been diagnosed with arthritis. Do you have the facts? What do you need to know about this debilitating disease?
One of the most important things to recognize is that arthritis is not one single disease. In fact, arthritis is “a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions...” Arthritis affects people of all ages with over two-thirds of those with arthritis falling below the age of 65.
While there are many types of arthritis, the three most commonly diagnosed forms include osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and juvenile arthritis (JA). The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is “a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage.” Those who are overweight, have had previous joint injury or are elderly are most likely to be diagnosed with OA. Common symptoms of OA include joint pain, morning joint stiffness and bone spurs at the joint. Osteoarthritis is most often seen in the knees, hips, spine, and hands.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is defined by the Arthritis Foundation as a “systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membranes lining the joint, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling, and sometimes severe joint damage.” RA is most commonly seen in the legs, arms, wrists, and fingers. Those suffering from RA will often complain that their hands are red or puffy, that their joints are tender or that symptoms are more severe in the morning after waking.
Juvenile arthritis (JA) encompasses many different autoimmune and inflammatory conditions seen in children under the age of 16. While arthritis typically refers to joint inflammation, juvenile arthritis can also include issues related to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. The most commonly diagnosed form of JA is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
If you or a loved one is facing a future with arthritis, it is important to learn as much as possible about your form of arthritis. Your doctor can help you learn about arthritis and gain information on ways to manage the pain. It can also help to find information on the causes of pain, to learn more about new medications or natural remedies, and to find practical solutions for living your life with less pain.
One of the best things you can do to manage your arthritis pain is to remain active. Some people believe that exercise is discouraged for people with arthritis. This is inaccurate. In fact, exercise can be extremely helpful for those with arthritis. Low impact exercises, like tai chi, water aerobics and walking, help to manage pain and prevent joint stiffness. Before starting any exercise program it is best to consult with your doctor.
“An arthritis diagnosis doesn’t have to mean a limited future,” says Larry Meigs, President and CEO of Visiting Angels. “Making the right decisions about exercise, diet and healthy living can help you to live an active and independent life. Those with advanced stages of arthritis who need assistance navigating their daily activities can seek the help of at home care professionals.”
Living with arthritis can be challenging, but by making the conscious decision to manage your arthritis symptoms, you can continue to enjoy all your favorite activities. Do some research, seek advice from your doctor, and then get out and enjoy life!