Monday, May 9, 2011

Living with Arthritis

By Anne Pagnoni

According to the CDC, over 50 million Americans are living with the pain and discomfort of arthritis. Of these, 21 million are experiencing physical limitations due to the disease. While arthritis is a word that most of us have heard, did you know that arthritis is actually a general term used to describe joint inflammation and that the term arthritis is used to describe over 100 different conditions impacting the joints? While osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, and gout are other frequently occurring forms of arthritis. Arthritis is seen more commonly in adults over age 65, but it can impact anyone including children.

Arthritis is seen as a public health problem as it impacts such a large number of people. As our population continues to age, the number of people living with arthritis is going to increase. It is predicted that the number of adults living with arthritis will increase to 67 million by the year 2030 with at least one third being impacted with limited activity as a result.

There are a variety of factors that have been shown to increase a person’s risk for arthritis. The risk of developing arthritis increases with age. Women are at a greater chance of developing arthritis than men. Almost 60% of all people with arthritis are women. Certain genes can increase a person’s chance of developing certain types of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus. Excess weight can lead someone developing osteoarthritis of the knees. If someone has a job that involves them repeatedly bending and squatting, then they are at an increased risk of developing arthritis.

There are things that you can do to protect your joints and help prevent osteoarthritis in particular. Maintain your ideal body weight. The more you weigh the more stress you’re putting on your knee, back, hip, and feet joints. Exercise regularly. Exercise protects joints by strengthening the muscles around them. Strong muscles keep joints from rubbing on each other. When lifting or carrying items, use your largest and strongest joints and muscles. This helps alleviate stress and prevent injury to smaller joints. Listen to your body. If you’re in pain, then you probably overstressed your joints.

I f you or someone you know has been diagnosed with arthritis, there are things that you can do to continue to live a relatively pain-free life. While there are medications that can help alleviate joint pain and swelling, there are many things that can be done that don’t involve medications. Physical and occupational therapy, splints or assistive devices, and weight loss can all help control pain and maintain function. For more suggestions on how to “do it easier” with arthritis, please visit Arthritis Today.

For more detailed information about arthritis, please visit the Arthritis Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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