More than 40 million Americans suffer from some type of arthritis, making it one of the most common medical problems in America.* It is also the No.1 cause of disability in the country.**
The three most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Osteoarthritis (OA) affects nearly 21 million people in the United States.** It is characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage, usually in the hands, weight-bearing joints like knees and hips, and the spine in the lower back and neck. OA can cause stiffness and joint pain as well as decreased range of motion.
OA can be caused by joint injury or overuse. Women have a higher risk of developing the disease, as do people who are overweight, those over age 45 and those with certain hereditary conditions.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition that causes pain and swelling in joints. In RA, the immune system attacks the synovium, the tissue that lines the joint, and causes inflammation that damages bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Eventually, the joint loses shape and alignment.
More than 2 million Americans are affected, and the disease is more common among women.** Other risk factors include heredity, smoking and exposure to an infection. RA generally strikes at a younger age than OA.
Gout is a painful disease caused by deposits of uric acid in the connective tissue and joint spaces. It causes swelling, redness, pain and stiffness in the joints, usually in the feet. Men are more prone to the disease than are women. Excessive alcohol consumption and certain medical problems, such as untreated high blood pressure, can increase risk of developing gout.
Prevention and Care
There is no treatment to cure arthritis. Joint replacements may be done to help OA sufferers. Pain medications may alleviate symptoms, and immunosuppressant drugs can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although there are some factors for arthritis that are uncontrollable, like age and heredity, you can control the following to help prevent the onset of arthritis:
If you already suffer from arthritis, exercise can help you manage symptoms. Range-of-motion exercises can help maintain joint movement and relieve stiffness and pain, while aerobic activities such as walking or biking can improve cardiovascular health and help with weight control. Holland Hospital Rehabilitation Services offers arthritis evaluation and therapy programs with those goals in mind; a doctor’s referral is required.
In addition to exercise, get plenty of sleep and follow your treatment plan. You don’t have to let arthritis slow you down.
* Source: Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org.
** Source: Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com.