Facts About Arthritis

Reviewed Jul 31, 2017

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Summary

Arthritis is already the leading cause of disability in the United States and experts estimate that at least 7 million people are unable to perform basic daily activities because of stiffness and pain.

With 70 million Americans who currently have arthritis, chances are that you or someone you love is currently living with this condition. Arthritis is already the leading cause of disability in the United States and experts estimate that at least 7 million people are unable to perform basic daily activities because of stiffness and pain. By the year 2030, experts predict that an estimated 67 million Americans will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

Obesity is an important contributing factor to the development of arthritis. About 16 percent of normal weight adults report doctor-diagnosed arthritis. That figure jumps to 22.6 percent of overweight adults and 31.2 percent of obese adults. Weight loss of as little as 11 pounds reduces the risk of knee osteoarthritis in women by 50 percent. Achieving a healthy weight is an essential part of arthritis management. Moreover, engaging in moderate physical activity at least three times per week can reduce the risk of arthritis-related disability by 47 percent.

Yet, despite its prevalence, many of us still believe the old myths about arthritis: it only affects older people; there’s nothing anyone can do to alleviate symptoms; and it’s just an inevitable part of aging. In fact, the term “arthritis” refers to more than 100 different joint diseases and conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and other connective tissues. Some of these diseases also can affect the body’s supporting structures (such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments) or other parts of the anatomy, including internal organs. And nearly two-thirds of all people with arthritis are younger than 65 years old.

Need to know more? Here are answers to your questions.

What are the different kinds of arthritis?

A variety of diseases and conditions are grouped together under the general heading of “arthritis.” The term itself refers to joint inflammation, and the most common varieties include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis: The most prevalent type of arthritis, osteoarthritis also is known as degenerative joint disease and affects more than 20 million adults in the United States alone. Joint cartilage usually cushions the spaces between your bones. Osteoarthritis describes the painful condition that results from the deterioration of this cartilage. As a result, joints become swollen and bones may even grind against each other. Research suggests that excessive stress on the joints, obesity, repeated injury, or a genetic predisposition all may contribute to causing osteoarthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: One of the most debilitating kinds of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, affects 2.1 million Americans and is three times more common in women than men. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by the chronic inflammation of the joint lining and can result in pain, stiffness, swelling, or joint deformity. In some cases, the inflammation also can spread to other organs, including the lungs and heart.
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: Children who are 16-years-old or younger may be diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) after experiencing joint inflammation or stiffness for a period of at least six weeks. The symptoms often disappear after a few months or years.

What causes arthritis?

Different types of arthritis seem to have different causes. Rheumatoid arthritis results when the body attacks its own joint tissue, causing inflammation and pain. Researchers are still trying to learn what triggers the assault on the joints; some suggest that it’s the body’s reaction to a virus or bacterial infection.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is partly caused by wear and tear on the joints. Though researchers are still investigating, excessive stress on the joint (through repeated injury, for example) seems to play a major role. Environment, genetic factors, and lifestyle may be factors in causing different kinds of arthritis.

What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis?

Symptoms vary from type-to-type, but most people who have arthritis experience pain or swelling of the joints. Other common symptoms include stiffness around the joints for at least an hour each morning, difficulty moving a joint, and a sensation of warmth or redness in the joint.

Should I go to the doctor?

If you experience persistent joint pain, see a doctor and have it checked out. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 21 percent of people with significant stiffness, swelling, and pain in their joints don’t seek medical attention. Since a variety of effective treatment options are available, discuss the problem with a medical professional and start managing—rather than ignoring—your symptoms.

What treatments are available?

Depending on the kind of arthritis being treated, a doctor may prescribe physical therapy, rest, exercise, proper nutrition, or medication. A doctor may also advise weight loss. One symptom of many rheumatic conditions is exhaustion, and people must learn to rest when appropriate. Exercise, however, can also reduce pain and stiffness by increasing the range of motion and strength of joint tissue. A doctor may decide to prescribe medication that reduces pain and inflammation. People should always follow the prescription’s instructions and notify a physician about any side effects. Assistive devices, such as splints and braces, can alleviate pressure on a weakened joint, and surgery may necessary to repair damage or relieve pain.

Arthritis is an increasingly common condition that affects the way a person lives and works. Expanding your knowledge about arthritis and rheumatic disease may be an important step to helping a co-worker, a parent, a child—or even yourself.

By Lauren Greenwood
Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, www.nih.gov/niams; The Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com; National Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm; MMWR 2013; 62 {44} 869-873; Am J Prev Med 2006;30{5}:385-393.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

Summary

Arthritis is already the leading cause of disability in the United States and experts estimate that at least 7 million people are unable to perform basic daily activities because of stiffness and pain.

With 70 million Americans who currently have arthritis, chances are that you or someone you love is currently living with this condition. Arthritis is already the leading cause of disability in the United States and experts estimate that at least 7 million people are unable to perform basic daily activities because of stiffness and pain. By the year 2030, experts predict that an estimated 67 million Americans will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

Obesity is an important contributing factor to the development of arthritis. About 16 percent of normal weight adults report doctor-diagnosed arthritis. That figure jumps to 22.6 percent of overweight adults and 31.2 percent of obese adults. Weight loss of as little as 11 pounds reduces the risk of knee osteoarthritis in women by 50 percent. Achieving a healthy weight is an essential part of arthritis management. Moreover, engaging in moderate physical activity at least three times per week can reduce the risk of arthritis-related disability by 47 percent.

Yet, despite its prevalence, many of us still believe the old myths about arthritis: it only affects older people; there’s nothing anyone can do to alleviate symptoms; and it’s just an inevitable part of aging. In fact, the term “arthritis” refers to more than 100 different joint diseases and conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and other connective tissues. Some of these diseases also can affect the body’s supporting structures (such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments) or other parts of the anatomy, including internal organs. And nearly two-thirds of all people with arthritis are younger than 65 years old.

Need to know more? Here are answers to your questions.

What are the different kinds of arthritis?

A variety of diseases and conditions are grouped together under the general heading of “arthritis.” The term itself refers to joint inflammation, and the most common varieties include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis: The most prevalent type of arthritis, osteoarthritis also is known as degenerative joint disease and affects more than 20 million adults in the United States alone. Joint cartilage usually cushions the spaces between your bones. Osteoarthritis describes the painful condition that results from the deterioration of this cartilage. As a result, joints become swollen and bones may even grind against each other. Research suggests that excessive stress on the joints, obesity, repeated injury, or a genetic predisposition all may contribute to causing osteoarthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: One of the most debilitating kinds of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, affects 2.1 million Americans and is three times more common in women than men. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by the chronic inflammation of the joint lining and can result in pain, stiffness, swelling, or joint deformity. In some cases, the inflammation also can spread to other organs, including the lungs and heart.
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: Children who are 16-years-old or younger may be diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) after experiencing joint inflammation or stiffness for a period of at least six weeks. The symptoms often disappear after a few months or years.

What causes arthritis?

Different types of arthritis seem to have different causes. Rheumatoid arthritis results when the body attacks its own joint tissue, causing inflammation and pain. Researchers are still trying to learn what triggers the assault on the joints; some suggest that it’s the body’s reaction to a virus or bacterial infection.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is partly caused by wear and tear on the joints. Though researchers are still investigating, excessive stress on the joint (through repeated injury, for example) seems to play a major role. Environment, genetic factors, and lifestyle may be factors in causing different kinds of arthritis.

What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis?

Symptoms vary from type-to-type, but most people who have arthritis experience pain or swelling of the joints. Other common symptoms include stiffness around the joints for at least an hour each morning, difficulty moving a joint, and a sensation of warmth or redness in the joint.

Should I go to the doctor?

If you experience persistent joint pain, see a doctor and have it checked out. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 21 percent of people with significant stiffness, swelling, and pain in their joints don’t seek medical attention. Since a variety of effective treatment options are available, discuss the problem with a medical professional and start managing—rather than ignoring—your symptoms.

What treatments are available?

Depending on the kind of arthritis being treated, a doctor may prescribe physical therapy, rest, exercise, proper nutrition, or medication. A doctor may also advise weight loss. One symptom of many rheumatic conditions is exhaustion, and people must learn to rest when appropriate. Exercise, however, can also reduce pain and stiffness by increasing the range of motion and strength of joint tissue. A doctor may decide to prescribe medication that reduces pain and inflammation. People should always follow the prescription’s instructions and notify a physician about any side effects. Assistive devices, such as splints and braces, can alleviate pressure on a weakened joint, and surgery may necessary to repair damage or relieve pain.

Arthritis is an increasingly common condition that affects the way a person lives and works. Expanding your knowledge about arthritis and rheumatic disease may be an important step to helping a co-worker, a parent, a child—or even yourself.

By Lauren Greenwood
Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, www.nih.gov/niams; The Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com; National Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm; MMWR 2013; 62 {44} 869-873; Am J Prev Med 2006;30{5}:385-393.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

Summary

Arthritis is already the leading cause of disability in the United States and experts estimate that at least 7 million people are unable to perform basic daily activities because of stiffness and pain.

With 70 million Americans who currently have arthritis, chances are that you or someone you love is currently living with this condition. Arthritis is already the leading cause of disability in the United States and experts estimate that at least 7 million people are unable to perform basic daily activities because of stiffness and pain. By the year 2030, experts predict that an estimated 67 million Americans will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

Obesity is an important contributing factor to the development of arthritis. About 16 percent of normal weight adults report doctor-diagnosed arthritis. That figure jumps to 22.6 percent of overweight adults and 31.2 percent of obese adults. Weight loss of as little as 11 pounds reduces the risk of knee osteoarthritis in women by 50 percent. Achieving a healthy weight is an essential part of arthritis management. Moreover, engaging in moderate physical activity at least three times per week can reduce the risk of arthritis-related disability by 47 percent.

Yet, despite its prevalence, many of us still believe the old myths about arthritis: it only affects older people; there’s nothing anyone can do to alleviate symptoms; and it’s just an inevitable part of aging. In fact, the term “arthritis” refers to more than 100 different joint diseases and conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and other connective tissues. Some of these diseases also can affect the body’s supporting structures (such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments) or other parts of the anatomy, including internal organs. And nearly two-thirds of all people with arthritis are younger than 65 years old.

Need to know more? Here are answers to your questions.

What are the different kinds of arthritis?

A variety of diseases and conditions are grouped together under the general heading of “arthritis.” The term itself refers to joint inflammation, and the most common varieties include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis: The most prevalent type of arthritis, osteoarthritis also is known as degenerative joint disease and affects more than 20 million adults in the United States alone. Joint cartilage usually cushions the spaces between your bones. Osteoarthritis describes the painful condition that results from the deterioration of this cartilage. As a result, joints become swollen and bones may even grind against each other. Research suggests that excessive stress on the joints, obesity, repeated injury, or a genetic predisposition all may contribute to causing osteoarthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: One of the most debilitating kinds of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, affects 2.1 million Americans and is three times more common in women than men. Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by the chronic inflammation of the joint lining and can result in pain, stiffness, swelling, or joint deformity. In some cases, the inflammation also can spread to other organs, including the lungs and heart.
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: Children who are 16-years-old or younger may be diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) after experiencing joint inflammation or stiffness for a period of at least six weeks. The symptoms often disappear after a few months or years.

What causes arthritis?

Different types of arthritis seem to have different causes. Rheumatoid arthritis results when the body attacks its own joint tissue, causing inflammation and pain. Researchers are still trying to learn what triggers the assault on the joints; some suggest that it’s the body’s reaction to a virus or bacterial infection.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is partly caused by wear and tear on the joints. Though researchers are still investigating, excessive stress on the joint (through repeated injury, for example) seems to play a major role. Environment, genetic factors, and lifestyle may be factors in causing different kinds of arthritis.

What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis?

Symptoms vary from type-to-type, but most people who have arthritis experience pain or swelling of the joints. Other common symptoms include stiffness around the joints for at least an hour each morning, difficulty moving a joint, and a sensation of warmth or redness in the joint.

Should I go to the doctor?

If you experience persistent joint pain, see a doctor and have it checked out. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 21 percent of people with significant stiffness, swelling, and pain in their joints don’t seek medical attention. Since a variety of effective treatment options are available, discuss the problem with a medical professional and start managing—rather than ignoring—your symptoms.

What treatments are available?

Depending on the kind of arthritis being treated, a doctor may prescribe physical therapy, rest, exercise, proper nutrition, or medication. A doctor may also advise weight loss. One symptom of many rheumatic conditions is exhaustion, and people must learn to rest when appropriate. Exercise, however, can also reduce pain and stiffness by increasing the range of motion and strength of joint tissue. A doctor may decide to prescribe medication that reduces pain and inflammation. People should always follow the prescription’s instructions and notify a physician about any side effects. Assistive devices, such as splints and braces, can alleviate pressure on a weakened joint, and surgery may necessary to repair damage or relieve pain.

Arthritis is an increasingly common condition that affects the way a person lives and works. Expanding your knowledge about arthritis and rheumatic disease may be an important step to helping a co-worker, a parent, a child—or even yourself.

By Lauren Greenwood
Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, www.nih.gov/niams; The Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com; National Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/index.htm; MMWR 2013; 62 {44} 869-873; Am J Prev Med 2006;30{5}:385-393.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

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