• People of all ages, sexes, and races can and do get arthritis, and arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S.

All About Arthritis, And What To Do If You Have It

September is Arthritis Awareness month, so our concierge family practice doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter want to provide the facts about this debilitating condition that affects 53 million American adults and 300,000 children.

The facts

According to the Arthritis Foundation (AF):

  • People of all ages, sexes, and races can and do get arthritis, and arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S.
  • The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which affects an estimated 31 million Americans.
  • Although arthritis is most commonly occurs with increasing age, children can also be diagnosed with a type of arthritis, known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, or JIA.
  • By the year 2040, the number of people expected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis will exceed 78 million.
  • Doctor-diagnosed arthritis is more common in women (26 percent) than in men (18 percent).
  • With some types, such as rheumatoid arthritis, women far outnumber men.

In addition, arthritis is much more common among people who have other chronic conditions:

  • 49 percent of adults with heart disease have arthritis;
  • 47 percent of adults with diabetes have arthritis; and,
  • 31 percent of adults who are obese have arthritis.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is an informal way of referring to more than 100 types of joint disease, but the two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The typical symptoms associated with arthritis are pain and swelling in the joints, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go, and may be mild, moderate, or severe. Symptoms can stay the same for years, but may progress or get worse over time.

Osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative arthritis) occurs when the cartilage—the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of the bones—wears away, causing bone to rub against bone, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. In other words, it mistakenly attacks the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion. The pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis is most often felt in the wrist and fingers, but rheumatoid arthritis can also spread to the lungs, heart, and eyes, among other organs. This is why it’s important to receive a definitive diagnosis.

Can it be prevented?

Unfortunately, there is no sure way to prevent arthritis, the AF says. However, there are some things you can do to mitigate your risk.

The main risk factors for developing arthritis are:

  • a family history of the disorder;
  • being female;
  • having injured a joint in the past; and
  • obesity.

If you maintain a healthy weight, refrain from smoking, and eat a healthy diet low in sugar, alcohol, and purines, you can reduces your chances of developing the condition. In addition, the AF recommends avoiding sports injuries through use of proper equipment, adequate training, and safe play. This can help you avoid injuries that can lead to arthritis a few years or even decades later.

How to manage it

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. Severe cases may require surgery, including arthroscopy, and even more drastic measures such as knee or hip replacement. Other approaches to address the pain include steroid injections—which may ultimately damage the joint and cartilage—and platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) injections, which are often not covered by insurance.

Meanwhile, the following steps can help manage the pain and symptoms:

• balancing activity with rest;
• using hot and cold therapies;
• engaging in regular physical activity;
• strengthening the muscles around the joint for added support;
• using assistive devices;
• avoiding excessive repetitive movements; and
• taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications.

If you already have mild to moderate symptoms of arthritis, the AF recommends you see us for a definitive diagnosis, because it’s important to learn which type of arthritis you may have. Testing includes a physical exam and, possibly, blood tests. If the diagnosis is uncertain, or the test results show the arthritis is inflammatory, you may be sent to a rheumatologist for additional care.