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7 Misconceptions About Arthritis

Inaccurate Portrayals of Arthritis Lead to Misunderstandings

By

Updated July 23, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Inaccurate Information About Arthritis Persists and Is Spread

  • Arthritis is an old person's disease.
  • Arthritis is induced by a cold, wet climate.
  • Arthritis can be cured.
  • Arthritis is caused by a poor diet.
  • Arthritis consists of only minor aches and pains.
  • "You felt fine yesterday....why so tired today?"
  • "You have arthritis, you can't......"

There are many misconceptions about arthritis. The most common misconceptions about arthritis seem to persist. Patients need facts and valid information, not myths and misconceptions, so they can better manage their illness.

Misconception #1 - Arthritis is an old person's disease

Fact: Anyone can have arthritis.

The most common misconception about arthritis is that it's a disease only of old people. In actuality, arthritis can affect anyone at any age, not just the elderly including:

  • Children
  • Young adults
  • Middle-aged people

Arthritis is not age or gender specific. There are over 100 different types of arthritis and related rheumatic conditions and some are more commonly found in particular groups.

Misconception #2 - Arthritis is induced by a cold, wet climate

Fact: Climate itself is neither the cause, nor the cure.

It has long been theorized that arthritis is caused by a cold, wet climate. Moving to a warm, dry climate has been regarded by some as the cure. Logically, one can infer that if a warm climate cured arthritis, then no one in Southern California or other warm regions would have arthritis. Bone rubbing on bone after cartilage has worn away causes pain in any climate. However:

  • Warmth can be soothing.
  • People without arthritis often feel better in warm climates too.
  • Warmth may relieve symptoms of arthritis, as does soaking in a hottub or taking a hot shower.

Note: Since moving from Ohio to Southern California and then Nevada, I can say that the warm climate has reduced the minor aches and pains that accompany my arthritic condition. I believe part of the reason is attributable to the fact that I am able to be more active in this climate. The fear of falling on the ice and in the snow is no longer a problem. I am able to walk much more and I believe the exercise has helped me tremendously. It has not reversed the serious damage the disease has done to my cartilage and joints, however.

Misconception #3 - Arthritis can be cured.

Fact: There has been no scientific evidence that a cure for arthritis exists at this time.

To date, there is no known cure for the disease. Much has been discovered in terms of better treatment options and slowing down the disease progression, but nothing yet has been found to successfully halt the disease. Since there are so many different types of arthritis, the prognosis varies.

Since arthritis is a lifelong process, the importance of gaining knowledge and understanding of your own health condition can not be overstated. There is much to be learned about:

Misconception #4 - Arthritis is caused by a poor diet.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence that specific foods prevent or cause arthritis.

There has been an abundance of speculation about the importance of diet with regard to arthritis. It is certain that a nutritious, well-balanced diet and ideal weight maintenance improves overall health and wellness for everyone. There are a few examples where there is a definite diet connection (e.g., gout).

There is no scientific evidence though that specific foods prevent or cause arthritis. Good diet does not prevent arthritis. Unless a person is found to have a particular food allergy which causes their arthritis to flare, there is no proven direct link between a particular food source and arthritis.

Misconception #5 - Arthritis consists of only minor aches and pains.

Fact: Arthritis consists of much more than just minor aches and pains.

It is another common misconception that arthritis is simply associated with minor aches and pains. Television commercials, which claim that a couple of aspirin or another over-the-counter pain reliever take away the minor aches and pains of arthritis, tend to mislead the public.

Such advertising, along with a lack of knowledge about the disease, expand some people's unawareness of the more complex forms of arthritis which require more aggressive forms of treatment.

Changes that may occur when a person is affected by arthritis include:

Misconception #6 - "You felt fine yesterday....why so tired today?"

Fact: There is variation in the duration and severity of the symptoms of arthritis.

Since arthritis is a disease characterized by periods of flares and remissions, it is often difficult for the family and friends of an arthritic person to comprehend why they feel so much better or so much worse on any particular day. The inconsistency of arthritis can even lead some people to believe the disease is "all in your head".

Arthritis is characterized by a mix of good days and bad days. Some days the joint pain and fatigue is more exacerbated. A balance between rest and activity may be necessary to best manage living with arthritis.

Misconception #7 - "You have arthritis, you can't...."

Fact: There is much a person with arthritis CAN do.

The limitations that arthritis imposes on an individual can cause people closest to them to become overprotective. Sometimes people do too much to try and help the person with arthritis. The disease can interfere with physical ability, but certainly the arthritic person should not be viewed as totally dependent and invalid.

A certain amount of help and dependence is likely to be required. It must be remembered though that it is best to maintain as much independence as possible for both physical and emotional reasons.

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