May is Arthritis Awareness Month
Arthritis is a very common condition, but it is also misunderstood. Many people think arthritis is something only older adults have, for example, and that it only causes minor aches or pains. To help clear up some of the misconceptions about arthritis, and to help spread accurate information about the condition, many doctors, medical professionals, public health officials, and patients recognize May as Arthritis Awareness Month.
Arthritis causes inflammation, or swelling, of one or more joints. The condition can affect the bones that form a joint, and the tissue surrounding the joint. According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are more than 100 forms of arthritis and related conditions. The most common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and childhood arthritis. Each type of arthritis affects the joints and surrounding tissue in a slightly different way, so the various forms of arthritis can cause different symptoms.
Ways to Participate in Arthritis Awareness Month
Join in a walk or other event
Some national and local organizations hold annual events during arthritis awareness month. The Arthritis Foundation sponsors a Walk to Cure Arthritis fundraiser in communities all over the country, for example.
Donating to a research organization can help expand the body of information regarding arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation, Rheumatology Research Foundation, National Arthritis Research Foundation, American College of Rheumatology, and other arthritis research organizations accept donations.
Attend a Conference
Participate in clinical trials
Clinical trials help researchers gain new information about arthritis and rheumatic diseases. The Arthritis Foundation offers a Clinical Trial Finder, CenterWatch lists medical research trials, and the National Institute of Health's ClinicalTrials.gov maintains a database of research trials.
Share information about arthritis
Because arthritis is poorly understood, Arthritis Awareness Month is a great time to share information about the condition. Patients and caregivers can share information with friends, family, and neighbors, or on social media.
Important Information to Share about Arthritis
Arthritis is Common
More than 58 million people in the United States has arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is approximately one in four American adults. About 1 in 10 adults with the condition limit their activities because of their arthritis.
Arthritis Can Strike at Any Age
Arthritis is not just for seniors – the CDC says that more than half of adults with arthritis are of working age of 18 to 64 years old. The condition also affects children and adolescents. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation says that nearly 300,000 babies, kids and teens have arthritis or a rheumatic condition, which is any autoimmune and inflammatory disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, muscles, bones and organs.
Arthritis Can be Debilitating
Arthritis is the #1 cause of disability in the United States. The condition can affect the type of work people do, and can even prevent them from working at all. About 8 million working-age adults say that their arthritis limits their ability to work. They may have trouble walking or climbing stairs as part of their job, for example.
People with two of the more common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, miss a combined 172 million workdays annually.
Arthritis is Costly
Arthritis is costly, for patients, employees, and others. In fact, the annual cost of arthritis is more than $303 billion in medical spending and lost wages.
Movement is Good
Physical activity can help reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
There is No Cure, but Treatment Can Help
While there is no cure for arthritis, proper treatment can help ease pain and improve mobility. Treatments include:
- Medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
- Heat and cold to ease pain and swelling
- Joint immobilization to give joints a chance to rest
- Massage to increase blood flow and relax tense muscles
- Gentle therapeutic exercise to strengthen the muscles around the joint, maintain bone strength, and more
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) that relieves pain by blocking pain signals to the brain and by changing the brain's perception of pain
Before engaging in treatment, such as exercise, people should consult with their doctors.
Treatment begins with an accurate and timely diagnosis. Doctors diagnose arthritis, and determine which type of arthritis a patient may have, by assessing the patient's symptoms and health history. Doctors also use medical imaging to look for signs of arthritis, such as damage to the joint and surrounding tissue. Signs of arthritis may show up on x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, and MRI scans.
For more information about Arthritis Awareness Month held every May, consult with your doctor, radiologist, or rheumatologist.