Did you know that May is Arthritis Awareness Month? You may wonder why such a common health condition needs a dedicated month. The answer is that this common issue is actually more complex than most people know, and is the leading cause of work disability in the United States.
Approximately 58.5 million adults in the U.S. live with arthritis, and the condition is particularly common among people with concurrent diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, though it’s hardly limited to those populations. Learn more about what arthritis is, what causes it, and what you can do about it.
Arthritis signs and symptoms
Arthritis generally refers to any disorder affecting the joints. There are actually more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, though the most common forms—often causing pain, stiffness, swelling around the affected joint, redness, and limited range of motion—are:
- Osteoarthritis (OA), which most frequently occurs in the hands, hips, and knees
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), most often affecting the hands, wrists, and knees
- Psoriatic arthritis (PsA), which typically deforms fingers and toes, but can also result in swollen fingers and toes, foot and lower back pain, nail changes, and eye inflammation
- Fibromyalgia, usually affecting the joints (and muscles) of the back, arms, and legs, but which can also cause fatigue, sleep and mood issues, and memory loss
- Gout, which primarily affects the big toe, but can also be experienced in the ankle, knee, or smaller toe joints
What causes arthritis?
Different forms of arthritis can have different causes. Scientists are unsure what causes osteoarthritis, but it’s a degenerative, meaning that the joints wear down over time, getting worse as age. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your own healthy joints, beginning with the joint lining.
The underlying causes of fibromyalgia are unclear, but the condition seems to be triggered by stress (whether physical or emotional), a traumatic accident or injury, or a viral infection such as Epstein-Barr or Lyme disease.
Gout is usually the result of too much uric acid in your blood; the excess acid forms crystals that settle and build up in the joint. Other types of arthritis can be caused by infections or other medical conditions, including psoriasis and lupus.
What treatments for arthritis are available?
While there are currently no cures for arthritis, many symptoms can be effectively managed with such treatments as:
- Physical and/or occupational therapy,
- Medications for arthritis pain include over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen; and prescription medications such indomethacin and celecoxib,
- Lifestyle changes involving diet, exercise, and stress and weight management,
- Complementary therapies like hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and massage, and
- Surgical procedures.
Managing your arthritis symptoms is critical for preventing and delaying disability, maintaining and extending productivity, and improving your quality of life.
Guest post By Margalo Eden
The views expressed by the author may not reflect the views of Age Safe America, LLC. The content here should not be taken as medical, legal or financial advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your own healthcare, legal or financial professional with any questions.