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10 Basic Facts Most People Don't Know About Arthritis

Do You Know These Arthritis Basics?

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Updated June 01, 2014

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

1) Arthritis Is Not a Single Disease

There are over 100 types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases. A handful of those are prevalent and, therefore, the most well-known types of arthritis.

2) Anyone Can Develop Arthritis - Even Children

One of the greatest misconceptions about arthritis is that it is only a disease of the elderly. Not true! Actually, about two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65. Anyone can develop arthritis -- even children. According to the CDC, 1 in every 250 children are affected by some type of arthritis or rheumatic condition.

3) Arthritis Is More Common Among Women Than Men

Statistics indicate that across every age group, more women develop arthritis than men (24.4% vs. 18.1% respectively).

4) Arthritis Is the Nation's Leading Cause of Disability

According to the CDC, each year approximately 19 million U.S. adults report that they have activity limitations due to arthritis. Of all working age adults (ages 18-64), about 1 in 20 report that they have arthritis that limits their work.

5) Arthritis Leads to Physical Inactivity, Which Is a Risk Factor for Other Diseases

Arthritis symptoms, such as pain, limited range of motion, and fatigue, discourage physical activity. Some patients fear increased pain, worsening symptoms, and even joint damage from exercise and physical activity. But there may be a consequence -- physical inactivity is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

6) There Is Typically No Cure for Arthritis, But It Can Be Well-Managed

People with arthritis often take medications to help control their symptoms -- but for most patients, there is no cure.

To manage arthritis, lifestyle modifications are also important. You should stop smoking if you are a smoker, maintain a healthy weight, protect your joints, exercise and participate in regular physical activity, remain compliant with your treatment regimen, and consider a self-management program to help improve your quality of life with arthritis. Until there is a cure, the goal must be to live well with arthritis.

7) Early Diagnosis and Appropriate Treatment Are Essential to Managing Arthritis

When you experience the first symptoms of arthritis, you likely won't even know what's wrong. You will be hoping it just goes away. But it's very important to be evaluated by your doctor if symptoms persist. You need to be properly diagnosed and start treatment early in the course of the disease.

8) A Rheumatologist Is a Specialist in Arthritis and Related Conditions

Typically, patients who are experiencing early signs of arthritis consult with their primary care physician or family physician. That's appropriate for the first round of diagnostic testing. However, you may be referred to a rheumatologist for more in-depth evaluation and ongoing care.

9) Certain Types of Arthritis Have Systemic Effects

The most common arthritis symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling in or around the affected joint. There are some types of arthritis, classified as autoimmune and inflammatory (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis and lupus), that may affect many parts of the body, not just the joints. These are called systemic effects.

10) Arthritis Is Highly Prevalent

The CDC estimates that 50 million American adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. It has been projected that as the population ages, the number of people with doctor-diagnosed arthritis will soar to 67 million by the year 2030.

Sources:

Arthritis. At-a-Glance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 01/28/10.
http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/arthritis.htm

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