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Arthritis - 10 Things You Should Know

Beyond Misconceptions and Misinformation

By

Updated August 08, 2014

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

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If you have been diagnosed with arthritis, it is important to learn all that you can about the disease. Start building your understanding of arthritis with the basic facts. Here are 10 things you should know about arthritis.

1 - Arthritis is not a single disease.

Many people speak of arthritis as if it were a single disease. Actually, there are over 100 types of arthritis and related rheumatic conditions. It is important to be accurately diagnosed, know your type of arthritis, and begin an appropriate treatment course.

2 - There is no known cure for arthritis but there are many treatment options.

Though some forms of arthritis, like Lyme arthritis, may be curable with antibiotics, there is no single medication or treatment that cures most forms of arthritis. Treatment options can help manage pain, control arthritis symptoms, and reduce joint damage or deformity.

3 - There are many myths and misconceptions about arthritis.

Have you heard that arthritis only affects old people? Not true. Did you know that arthritis causes only minor aches and pains? Not true. Common forms of arthritis can be cured by changes in your diet? While rare forms of arthritis, such as arthropathy associated with Celiac disease, can effectively be cured with a gluten-free diet, this claim is inapplicable to the vast majority of cases. These and several other examples of myths and misconceptions about arthritis, perpetuated by the spread of inaccurate information, can keep a person from managing the disease properly.

4 - A rheumatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating arthritis and other rheumatic conditions.

Your primary care doctor can refer you to a rheumatologist or you can get an appointment through self-referral if your health insurance allows it. Evaluation by a rheumatologist is important so that you can determine your type of arthritis and start a treatment plan.

5 - Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent joint deformity and disability.

Since there are various types of arthritis and many treatment options, it is important to be properly diagnosed and treated early in the course of the disease. Delaying diagnosis and treatment allows arthritis symptoms to worsen. The best chance for preventing joint deformity and disability begins with early diagnosis and treatment.

6 - You may have to try several treatment options before finding the most optimal treatment plan for you.

There are two important points to remember about arthritis treatment. Patients vary in their response to arthritis medications or other arthritis treatments. What works for one person may not work for another. Also, to find the safest and most effective medication or combination of medications, you'll have to weigh the benefits versus the risks.

7 - A healthy lifestyle and good habits may positively impact the course of arthritis.

Regular exercise, maintaining ideal weight, stress reduction, being a non-smoker and getting good sleep are part of better living with arthritis. Learn why lifestyle is important.

8 - Besides the physical limitations imposed by arthritis, living with chronic pain can have emotional consequences.

So many emotions are stirred by living with chronic pain. Anger, resentment, depression, isolation and fear are just a few. It is important for you and your loved ones to realize that living with arthritis affects your emotions.

9 - There is a financial impact associated with chronic arthritis.

Arthritis and related rheumatic conditions are recognized as the leading cause of disability in the United States. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total cost of arthritis is $128 billion/year and rising. Medical expenses and lost wages are factored into the financial impact of arthritis.

10 - Arthritis can cause functional limitations which interfere with activities of daily living.

According to the CDC, more than 42% (21.1 million) of adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis report arthritis-attributable activity limitations. Some of the activity limitations are vital activities of daily living such as bending, stooping, walking and climbing stairs. Consequently, cleaning, cooking, personal hygiene and other daily activities are affected.

Source:

Arthritis Data and Statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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