Understanding arthritis

23 percent of all adults are affected by arthritis in the United States, and the symptoms associated with this chronic disease cost our country over 81 million dollars in annual medical bills.

Arthritis is a disease that affects over 54 million people in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis is the leading cause of disability, with related medical expenses reaching $81 billion. It is estimated that by the year 2040 nearly 26 percent of all adults (over 78 million people) will have arthritis.

The CDC also reports that arthritis significantly limits the workforce in this country. Because 60 percent of adults with this disease are of working age (18-64 years), arthritis can limit the type of work they do, and in many cases, keep them from working at all.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is chronic pain condition that is most commonly caused by inflammation of the tissue lining the joints (joints are located where two or more bones meet, such as elbows and knees). Symptoms vary, but the most common are pain, aching, swelling and stiffness.

There are over 100 diseases and conditions that are referred to as arthritis, but the most prevalent is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis usually occurs in older adults, affecting their fingers, knees and hips and can be a result of a previous injury to a joint. Other well-known types of arthritis include gout, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus occur when the body’s defense system doesn’t work properly, and overtime, can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.

Who is affected by arthritis?

Arthritis does not discriminate…it affects people of every age, race and gender. However, statistics show that the risk of arthritis increases with age and is more common among women than men. The CDC reports that arthritis commonly occurs with other chronic diseases with half of adults with heart disease or diabetes, and one-third of people who are obese, having arthritis. When a person has to deal with arthritis, along with another chronic health condition, it can negatively affect their quality of life and make it more difficult for doctors to treat and manage their diseases.

What can I do if I have arthritis?

The good news is, there are several ways to treat and reduce the symptoms associated with arthritis. If you, or someone you care for, is affected by arthritis, Michigan State University Extension recommends that you first talk with a doctor. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says that only a doctor can diagnose and provide you with the best form of treatment associated with diabetes.

In addition to working with a healthcare provider, there are several things a person can do on their own to help control their pain and maintain their health. My next three news articles will focus on these arthritis self-management tools:

  • Healthy diet
  • Physical Activity
  • Weight Management

MSU Extension also provides high-quality and affordable education and resources related to the prevention and management of chronic disease

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