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Arthritis

Arthritis

Arthritis

Arthritis comprises over 100 different diseases and conditions. The most common is osteoarthritis. Other frequently occurring forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and gout.

Common symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in or around the joints. Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.

An estimated 46 million U.S. adults (about 1 in 5) reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to annual estimates from combined 2003�2005 data. As the U.S. population ages, these numbers are likely to increase sharply. The number of adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis is projected to increase to 67 million by 2030, and a good proportion of U.S. adults will have limited activity as a result.

Arthritis is the nation�s most common cause of disability. Nearly 19 million U.S. adults reported activity limitations because of arthritis each year during 2003�2005. Among adults of working age (18�64 years), work limitations attributable to arthritis affect about 1 in 20 adults in the general population and one-third of those with arthritis. Each year, arthritis results in 750,000 hospitalizations and 36 million outpatient visits.

There are effective ways to reduce symptoms, improve physical function, and improve the quality of life for people with arthritis. For example,

  • Self-management education programs can reduce pain and costs. The Arthritis Foundation�s Self-Help Program teaches people how to manage arthritis and lessen its effects. This 6-week course reduces arthritis pain by 20% and physician visits by 40%. However, courses are not offered in all areas of the country.

    More widespread use of this course and similar programs, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, which addresses arthritis along with other chronic diseases, could save money and improve quality of life for people with arthritis.

  • Physical activity has been shown to have significant benefits for people with arthritis, including reductions in pain and improvements in physical function, mental health, and quality of life. Community exercise programs, such as the Arthritis Foundation�s Exercise Program or EnhanceFitness, have been shown to improve health status among participants.

  • Weight control and injury prevention measures can lower a person�s risk for developing osteoarthritis. Weight loss can reduce symptoms for people with knee osteoarthritis.

  • The pain and disability that accompany arthritis can be decreased or avoided through early diagnosis and appropriate management, including self-management activities such as weight control and physical activity.

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Age: The risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.
  • Gender: Most types of arthritis are more common in women; 60% of all people with arthritis are women.  Gout is more common in men.
  • Genetic: Specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), and ankylosing spondylitis.

Modifiable risk factors

  • Overweight and Obesity: Excess weight can contribute to both the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis.
  • Joint Injuries: Damage to a joint can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint.
  • Infection: Many microbial agents can infect joints and potentially cause the development of various forms of arthritis.
  • Occupation: Certain occupations involving repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.
If you have pain, stiffness, or swelling in or around one or more of your joints, talk to your doctor. It is important to keep in mind that there are many forms of arthritis, and a specific diagnosis of the type you have may help to direct the proper treatment. Although there is no cure for most types of arthritis, early diagnosis and appropriate management are important, especially for inflammatory types of arthritis. For example, early use of disease-modifying drugs can affect the course of rheumatoid arthritis. An early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can make a difference in pain and joint damage. The earlier you understand your arthritis, the earlier you can start managing your disease and making healthy lifestyle changes to help your arthritis.
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