Arthritis. Everyone has seen someone rub their hands and complain about it in a movie, on a television show or maybe even at home.
But how much do you really know about arthritis, an inflammation or swelling of joints? The blanket term includes more than 100 conditions that may affect more than one-fifth of adults in the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a National Health Interview Survey from 2013-2015 and estimated that 54.5 million (22.7%) people in the country had doctor-diagnosed arthritis. And, the CDC notes, there is a “significantly higher” age-adjusted prevalence in women (23.5%) than men (18.1%).
Those numbers are expected to increase in the coming decades because of the aging population of the United States, according to the CDC. By 2040, 78.4 million people (25.9% of the projected total adult population) are expected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Two-thirds of those cases are expected to be women.
And those estimates are considered to be conservative because they do not account for trends in obesity, which can lead to more cases of osteoarthritis, the most common form of the disease.
Osteoarthritis affects more than 32.2 million adults in the United States, per the CDC, which notes it occurs most frequently in the hands, hips and knees. It involves cartilage breaking down and the underlying bone changing.
Common symptoms are pain or aching, stiffness, decreased range of motion and swelling, according to the CDC. Risk factors include joint use or overuse, age, gender, obesity, genetics and race. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but therapies include an increase in physical activity, physical therapy, weight loss, medications, devices such as crutches or canes, and surgery.
Fibromyalgia is another form of arthritis. It most commonly causes pain and stiffness all over the body, fatigue and tiredness, depression and anxiety, sleep problems and headaches, as well as cognitive issues affecting thinking, memory and concentration, according to the CDC. It can also lead to tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, pain in the face or jaw, and digestive problems.
Fibromyalgia impacts roughly 4 million American adults. Age, as well as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, are risk factors. Treatment typically includes medications, aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises, stress management techniques, good sleep habits, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Rheumatoid arthritis is classified as an autoimmune and inflammatory disease. It typically attacks the joints, commonly impacting hands, wrists and knees, according to the CDC. The tissue damage it causes can lead to long-lasting or chronic pain, unsteadiness and deformity. Rheumatoid arthritis also can damage the lungs, heart and eyes.
Symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness, tenderness or swelling in more than one joint, and typically appear on both sides of the body. They also include weight loss, fever, fatigue and weakness. Risk factors are age, sex, genetics or inherited traits, smoking, history of live births, early life exposures and obesity. It is typically treated with medications and self-management strategies.
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can be very painful, according to the CDC. It typically affects one joint at a time, often in the big toe. It can fluctuate between flareups and remission. There is no cure, but it can be treated and managed, per the CDC. It is caused by hyperuricemia — an excess of uric acid in the body.
Signs and symptoms include often-intense pain, swelling, redness and heat. Increased risks include being male, being obsese, using certain medications such as diuretics, drinking alcohol, consuming foods and drinks high in fructose, and a diet high in purines, according to the CDC. Certain health conditions — such as congestive heart failure, hypertension, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and poor kidney function — also can increase risks for gout.
It is treated by managing the pain, preventing flareups, and preventing tophi and kidney stones.
When it comes to adults with arthritis, the CDC promotes five major messages: learn arthritis management strategies, be active, watch your weight, see your doctor and protect your joints. It also recognizes certain physical activity programs and self-management education workshops as beneficial. For more information, visit cdc.gov/arthritis.
Mental health impact
The CDC cautions there is a connection between arthritis and mental health, and arthritis sufferers who are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depressions should seek help.
In addition to just having arthritis, roughly 43.5% of people with arthritis have limitations in their lives because of it. People should consult their doctors if they have any symptoms of arthritis.
July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
While arthritis is often portrayed as a condition that largely impacts the aging population, there is also childhood or juvenile arthritis — the most common of which is juvenile idiopathic arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can cause permanent damage to joints.
The CDC says there is no cure for childhood arthritis, but some youths achieve “permanent remission,” which means the disease is still in the body but no longer active or causing symptoms. Damage done to the joints can remain, though.
Signs of childhood arthritis include joint pain, swelling, fever, stiffness, rash, fatigue, loss of appetite, inflammation of the eye, and difficulty with daily activities such as walking, dressing and playing. The exact cause of childhood arthritis is unknown, but it is known to impact youths of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds, according to the CDC.
July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month.