There’s a good chance that you or someone you know suffers from arthritis. We say this because roughly 1 out of every 5 adults in the United States has arthritis, which makes it the leading cause of disability in the country. Since so many people are impacted by arthritis, it’s important that health-care workers are familiar with the disease. May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, so we’ve assembled important facts regarding arthritis and its treatment. Here are 10 things you should know about arthritis:
- There are more than 100 different types of arthritis
To put it simply, arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints. However, arthritis really isn’t that simple. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and each type affects people differently. The three most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
- Nearly 300,000 infants, children, and teens have arthritis
Arthritis isn’t a disease that only affects our older population. While one of the primary non-modifiable risk factors for developing arthritis is advanced age, this disease can affect people of all ages. When children do develop arthritis, it often affects their ability to engage in sports and other physical activities, something that can be extremely distressing to them and their families.
- Obesity is the greatest modifiable risk factor
Osteoarthritis typically develops as people age due to the overuse of joints; this is why increasing age is the greatest non-modifiable risk factor. Obesity places additional stress on joints, which causes cartilage to break down faster. So, in addition to helping prevent the onset of countless other diseases, maintaining a healthy bodyweight is the best way to keep joints strong and pain-free for as long as possible.
- Joint injuries can cause osteoarthritis
Joint injuries, including sports injuries and injuries caused by falls, can lead to chronic joint inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can break down cartilage, resulting in osteoarthritis. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to always use the proper protective gear when playing sports or engaging in other active hobbies.
- Smoking raises one’s risk for rheumatoid arthritis
The reasons to quit smoking just keep growing. Not only has smoking been linked to lung cancer, heart disease, and a whole host of other serious health problems, it now seems that it can increase one’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis as well. For those who already have rheumatoid arthritis, smoking has been shown to worsen symptoms.
- Arthritis damages bones quickly
Once arthritis sets in, damage to bones is believed to start within the first two years. For this reason, the early diagnosis and treatment of the disease is crucial. With early treatment, not only can many symptoms be lessened, long-term complications can be prevented.
- Diagnosing arthritis isn’t always easy
With so many different types of arthritis, it’s not always easy for doctors to make a diagnosis. When a patient first presents with symptoms, the doctor typically needs to work through their medical and family history to narrow down potential causes. After that, a physical exam, focused on the affected joints, is typically performed. From there, imaging tests, like x-rays, and lab tests are usually completed so that the doctor is able to make an accurate diagnosis.
- Pain, swelling, and stiffness are red flags
Since receiving treatment early is the best way to prevent long-term complications, there are several symptoms that should prompt one to discuss the possibility of arthritis with their doctor. Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness are the most common arthritis symptoms, and they shouldn’t be ignored, especially if they last longer than 3 days.
- Self-management should be a part of every treatment plan
Arthritis treatment varies from one person to the next. One thing that all arthritis treatments should stress, however, is the importance of having a self-management program. Moderate exercise, adequate rest, and a healthy diet should be included in all arthritis treatment plans as they can reduce symptoms and improve one’s quality of life.
- Arthritis is as common in dogs as it is in humans
Unfortunately, arthritis also affects man’s best friend. In fact, it’s the most common health problem in older dogs, affecting roughly half of dogs over the age of 7. If you’ve noticed your dog is starting to have trouble getting around, you should take it to your veterinarian for an exam.
Do you have any useful or interesting arthritis facts you’d like to share? If so, please do so by leaving them in a comment below!