Arthritis Awareness Month
Posted on May 01 2019
Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the United States and affects more than 50 million people, 1 in 4 American adults. There are many different kinds of arthritis, including common types like osteoarthritis (OA), caused by wear and tear on the joints, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which leads an overactive immune system to create inflammation in joints.
The Facts About Arthritis
Arthritis affects a staggering number of people in all ways -- physically, emotionally, and economically:
- Nearly 53 million cases of arthritis have been diagnosed in the U.S.
- Arthritis cases are expected to reach 67 million by 2030.
- 1 million hospitalizations occur due to arthritis every year.
- Working-age people (18 to 64 years old) with arthritis are less likely to be employed than people of the same age without it.
- One-third of working-age people with arthritis are limited in work ability, work category, or work hours.
- Arthritis costs $156 billion annually in medical expenses and lost wages.
- 172 million work days are lost each year to OA and RA.
Significant numbers of people with arthritis also suffer from other health problems, with conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease each affecting anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of arthritis patients. 1 in 3 adults over 45 with arthritis also suffer from either anxiety or depression.
Arthritis treatments are as varied as forms of rheumatic diseases. Its most common form, osteoarthritis, is a degenerative disease caused by long-term stress and abrasion on joints. Meanwhile, another common form, rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own cells, causing inflammation that damages cartilage, bone, and ligaments. It's unsurprising, then, that treatments would vary, especially as there is no cure for most forms of arthritis. Doctors rely on early diagnosis and an aggressive treatment plan to manage the form a person has been diagnosed with.
Arthritis pain can have multiple causes stemming from the kind of arthritis you have, which can affect the best treatment methods. The source of your pain affects how your body processes it, and certain treatments may be more or less effective based on this. Options include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs): treatments for RA and other rheumatic diseases that slow or stop the inflammatory process.
- Analgesics or topical pain relievers.
- Corticosteroids: steroids that relieve inflammation.
- Joint surgery.
- Specialty clothing to improve circulation.
- Heat and cold therapies.
- TENS: transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
- Natural supplements or topical creams.
- CBD products.
Managing symptoms is necessary, but not always enough. You may also have to make changes in your lifestyle for improved mobility and comfort. Options include:
- Dietary changes and weight loss.
- Physical and occupational therapy.
- Assistive devices: both personal mobility devices and tools to improve your environment's accessibility.
There's also the matter of exercise. Physical activity can be a source of pain or discomfort if you have arthritis, but all adults are recommended 150 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, plus one or two days of muscle-strengthening exercise. This is even the case with arthritis patients, and in fact exercise has been shown to reduce arthritis pain and fatigue, and increase mobility and quality of life. This exercise doesn't have to be high-impact! Walking is recommended for those with arthritis, and there are plenty of low-impact strength building options to try, such as swimming, yoga, Pilates, and resistance bands.
Be sure to consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional before taking any medication, supplement, or beginning any health regimen.