Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints and can affect anyone from young children to seniors. It is typically characterized by joint pain and stiffness that make movement painful and difficult, though newer treatment options have helped many patients deal more effectively with symptoms. Additionally, joint health can often be improved with exercise, medication, and the right lifestyle habits.
Arthritis: A Painful History
About 46 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis — that's about one in five Americans, and the number is rising and expected to jump dramatically in the coming years.
But arthritis is not a new phenomenon; it has plagued mankind for hundreds of years. There's evidence in centuries-old skeletal remains of arthritic joints, says Rochelle Rosian, MD, a Cleveland Clinic rheumatologist in Solon, Ohio.
"Over the past 100 years, there's a lot more knowledge of the science of the musculoskeletal condition and the immune system," says Dr. Rosian. Researchers have identified more than 100 different types of arthritis, and counting. Many inflammatory conditions accompanied by fevers and immune dysfunction are now understood to be conditions related to arthritis, and more conditions are added to this list all the time.
Arthritis Symptoms and Types
Arthritis is characterized by pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, as well as by reduced joint mobility. But arthritis appears in different forms, and the causes of arthritis vary by type.. In addition, arthritis inflammation can result from a variety of conditions and diseases, like gout, lupus, and fibromyalgia
Arthritis can be broken down into three main categories. Here are some of the most common types:
·Osteoarthritis (OA). Also called degenerative joint disease, this is the most frequently diagnosed form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage inside a joint disintegrates. This form of arthritis most commonly affects the knees, hips, low back, neck, and hands, and most often occurs after the age of 40.
·Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This type of arthritis occurs when the lining inside joints becomes inflamed and irritated, causing joint damage and pain. It most often occurs in small joints in the wrists, fingers, and hands. RA is an autoimmune disease that usually strikes between the ages of 30 and 50. Women are most often affected, though children may also develop RA.
·Juvenile arthritis (JA). This includes any type of arthritis that strikes children younger than age 18. What causes arthritis to develop at such an early age is unknown, but it occurs more often in girls than boys. JA typically strikes the ankles, knees, and wrists, and may also affect the hips, neck, jaw, and shoulders. There are many types of juvenile arthritis, the most common being juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA. There are three specific forms or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: polyarticular (many joints) JRA, pauciarticular (four or fewer joints), and systemic onset (affecting the whole body).
CLEARING UP SOME CONFUSION
Arthritis has been recognized for perhaps thousands of years. Unfortunately, many misconceptions about this chronic condition have been around for almost as long. We will try to debunk some of these myths about arthritis and provide some key information along the way.
About 50 million Americans are living with some type of arthritis, but despite how common a condition it is, many people -- even some who are diagnosed with it -- hold beliefs about arthritis that experts say aren't true.
Americans spend more than $130 billion - yes, billion - on arthritis treatments each year. So it should come as no surprise that physicians, researchers, and, well, the rest of us are always on the lookout for the latest ways to ease pain, no matter how costly - or how kooky - they are. Below are the Top 10 Myths...
The Facts... There are over 100 different varieties of Arthritis, some of which are thought to have a genetic cause while others are the result of joint trauma. The causes & symptom's can differ widely as can the treatments & prognosis.
The Facts... Arthritis myths related to cold wet weather being at the root of arthritis continue to endure. Furthermore, dry weather has been regarded as a cure, prompting some individuals to move to warm and dry places such as
Arizona. Unfortunately, populations in all types of climate are affected by arthritis. While warmth may be soothing to some people, it cannot prevent or reverse the effects of arthritis.
The Facts... Except for individuals who are found to have specific food allergies that aggravate their arthritis, there is no proven connection between a particular food source and arthritis. We do know however that a nutritious, well-balanced diet and the maintenance of a healthy weight can improve your prospects. Weight management is extremely important for people with arthritis because being overweight puts added stress on arthritic joints.
The Facts... Arthritis sufferers have good days and bad days in terms of both pain and mental state. Managing the repercussions of arthritis is a challenging endeavor not only for the afflicted but also for those living or working with them. Education can help everyone better deal with the contradictions and challenges of arthritis.
The Facts... It's common myth that arthritis sufferers only deal with minor aches and pains. Television commercials, newspaper and magazine marketing can over simplify the treatment options and minimize the effects of arthritis. All forms of arthritis are at the very least inconvenient but the more aggressive forms can be debilitating and a challenge to manage.
The Facts... Despite arthritis myths to the contrary, there is no scientific evidence that a cure for arthritis exists. Nevertheless; geneticists, doctors and natural remedy practitioners continue to make huge strides in understanding and fighting arthritis. The current best practices include a regimen of pain management tools, physical therapy and preventive care to address the symptoms.
The Facts... Total joint replacement surgery, called arthroplasty, has been used by millions of Americans as an arthritis remedy and as such we know a lot about its effectiveness and the end results.
History to date has shown that this surgery is not without its downsides which need to be considered carefully and against your other options.
When you are talking about joint surgery (typically--hip and knee replacements) there are two key factors to consider:
• First, no matter what you are told you will experience limited mobility for the rest of your life after even the most successful operation.
• Second, these "replacement" surgeries do have a failure rate, some procedures having a very significant risk of failure. At best implants will last about 8-10 years after which the surgery and cost incurred (monetary and otherwise) will have to be repeated.
The Facts...Regular moderate exercise can help prevent and treat arthritis. Exercise promotes function and mobility, controls weight and strengthens the muscles that support the joints. Though you may want to avoid high-impact exercises (like running) if your knees bother you, low-impact exercises such as walking, tai chi or aquatics are all beneficial. Talk to your physician about the best exercise regimen for you. Pool (aqua) therapy has been shown to cause improvement in mobility in arthritic joints.
The Facts...Despite this urban legend, several studies over the years have found no association between knuckle cracking and arthritis. Persistent knuckle cracking may eventually affect your grip strength or, at the very least, annoy your coworkers.
Just The Facts Please Additional Facts about Arthritis
1 in 5 adults living in the
United States reports having doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
Nearly 1 in 3 adults living in the
United States has either doctor-diagnosed arthritis or chronic joint symptoms that have not been diagnosed by a doctor. This number is up from 1 in 6 adults in 1998, and the number continues to increase as the population increases.
Arthritis is second only to heart disease as a cause of work disability.
39 million physician visits and more than 500,000 hospitalizations are attributable to arthritis.
Half of those Americans afflicted with arthritis do not think anything can be done to help them.
Arthritis literally means inflammation of the joints. However, some forms of arthritis inflame more than just joints and some cause very little inflammation.
Arthritis refers to a large group of diseases that affect areas in and around joints.
Arthritis is the one of the most prevalent chronic (persistent and long-lasting) health conditions.
The prevalence of arthritis increases with age.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis, each differing widely in progression, cause, symptoms and method of treatment. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, affecting an estimated 21 million people.
The cause of most types of arthritis is unknown.
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability among Americans over age 15.
Arthritis is one of the oldest diseases known to man and has been discovered in the remains of people who lived over 500,000 years ago.
More women than men are afflicted with arthritis.
All age groups are affected by arthritis, including about 300,000 children.
Arthritis is diagnosed by the patient’s medical history, a physical examination, blood and laboratory tests and/or X-rays.
In very severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis can be treated by injections of a gold compound.
After 10 to 12 years with rheumatoid arthritis, less than 20% of patients are free of disability or deformity.
Fewer than five percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis are wheelchair bound or unable to take care of themselves.
Ten percent of those with rheumatoid arthritis go into complete remission within the first year.
Although arthritis is unlikely to be fatal, studies have shown that those with rheumatoid arthritis tend to die earlier, mostly due to increased susceptibility to infection.
Gout is another common form of arthritis, where repeated flare-ups of painful swelling occur. The bunion joint, which connects the big toe to the foot, is usually affected first. Various drugs are used to treat gout.
Septic arthritis, another fairly common form of arthritis, is caused when a joint is infected by bacteria. Early treatment with antibiotic drugs prevents crippling disability.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis in which spinal joints become inflamed causing the patient to develop a hunched back. This disease attacks mostly young men and can be treated with drugs and physical therapy.
Lupus, a form of arthritis that causes chronic inflammation of lungs and tissues, occurs mostly in women of childbearing age.
Fibromyalgiais a disease in which muscles and attachment to bones are affected, causing severe pain. This disease affects mainly women.
Fibromyalgia is sometimes mistaken for Lyme disease.
People who are overweight or obese report more doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
People who are more than ten pounds overweight have an elevated risk of developing arthritis, especially in weight-bearing joints such as the knees.
Obesity aggravates the course of osteoarthritis, especially knee osteoarthritis.
Many people with doctor-diagnosed arthritis report limitations in important activities such as walking, bending and climbing stairs.
In 1998, the number of deaths due to arthritis and other related rheumatoid conditions was 9, 367.
Three categories of arthritis alone account for 80% of all deaths due to arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis, the most common chronic inflammatory arthritis, accounts for 22% of all deaths due to arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is often called the “great crippler.”
Rheumatoid arthritis is also among the most serious and disabling types of arthritis because it strikes multiple joints, follows an unpredictable course and has no known cure.
Rheumatoid arthritis afflicts three times as many women as men.
One of the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is fatigue.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects mainly women in their forties, although anyone can be affected.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the same joints on both sides of the body.
It is estimated that approximately 10 to 20% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis are expected to have a complete remission early in their disease or to follow a mild intermittent course which will require little medical attention.
Nearly fifty percent of adults over the age of 65 report doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
Not all arthritis is persistent and lasting. Many are limited and of brief duration.
Some arthritic conditions have a known cause or causes and can be cured if treated properly. Others have poorly understood causes and follow an unpredictable course.
Most of the chronic forms of arthritis are likely to result form a complex interaction between genes and environment.
Evidence suggests that microbial agents trigger certain types of arthritis in genetically predisposed people.
Many patients with arthritis are successfully treated. Indeed, proper treatment can allow the majority of patients to function with little or no pain.
11.3 percent of Americans report having symptoms of arthritis but have never seen a doctor for help.
Early treatmentcan often mean less pain and less joint damage.
More than 1 in 3 adults with arthritis reported activity limitations and more than 1 in 4 adults reported severe joint pain.
The black population has a similar prevalence of arthritis to that of whites, but the black population reports higher instances of activity limitations and severe joint pain than do whites.
The Hispanic population has a lower prevalence of arthritis than whites, but the Hispanic population also reports higher instances of activity limitations and severe joint pain than do whites.
30.6 percent of the working aged population with arthritis attributed work limitations to their arthritis.
Studies have shown several connections between food, natural supplements and certain forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Arthritis pain can be caused by factors such as inflammation, damage to joint tissues, fatigue, depression or stress.
Arthritis and other related conditions rank second to diseases of the circulatory system in total economic costs to society and first among all disease groups in cost through lost income.
One of the principal features of most types of arthritis is their distinctive flares and periods of lesser disease activity.
Ninety percent of people suffering from arthritis will turn to folk medicine and the use of quack remedies at some point.
Some of these remedies include wearing a copper bracelet and the use of the venom of vipers, bees and ants.
Anti-inflammatory medications alone can cost as much as $50 per month for several years.
Many forms of arthritis are systemic, i.e., they are not limited to the joints. In such diseases, practically any organ of the body may be affected, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and skin.
Fewer than 50% of people with rheumatoid arthritis who were working at the onset of the disease are still working 10 years later.
No single type of arthritis is better or worse than another type.
There is no best form of treatment for everyone who has a particular type of arthritis as each individual may respond differently to different kinds of treatments.
Because symptoms of arthritis vary from day to day, it is common to think that what one ate or did yesterday caused or reduced the symptoms one feels today.
About 60.7% of those diagnosed with arthritis are women (25.9 million), while 39.3% are men (16.8 million).
Almost half of people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis that affects their foot or ankle.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen are commonly used to treat arthritis.
Chinese acupuncture and Swedish massages are some of the alternative treatments sought out by those with arthritis.
Arthritis patients spend billions of dollars a year on untested cures.
There is no evidence that climate itself can either cure or cause arthritis.
The three groups of patients most attracted to unproven remedies are those with AIDS, cancer and advanced arthritis.
Only a small percentage of genetically susceptible people will actually develop arthritis.
Regular exercise is an essential tool in managing arthritis.
There is not yet any scientific proof that certain foods can prevent or cause arthritis.
More than 90 percent of arthritis patients are seen for a handful of arthritic conditions.
There are about fifteendifferent types of juvenile arthritis.
Arthritis affects animals, too. One in every five adult dogsin the United States has arthritis.
Finally, arthritis isn't just another name for the aches and pains we feel as we grow older. It is a chronic disease that describes more than 100 conditions affecting the joints and other body parts. While there is no cure, doctors can provide medications and treatments that can improve the level of pain.
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