Arthritis affects 54.4 million US adults, 1 in 4 adults. It also can affect children. By 2040, it’s projected that 78 million adults in the US will be affected by some form of arthritis. The month of May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, time to learn about joint health!
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is the umbrella term for the conditions that affect joints or tissues around joints. Though there are over 100 types of arthritis, the most common types include:
· Osteoarthritis- mostly in hands, hips, and knees. Cartilage breaks down within a joint as we age, and from ‘wear and tear,’ resulting in osteoarthritis.
· Rheumatoid arthritis- an autoimmune/ inflammatory disease. Hand, wrist, and knee joints are most commonly affected. Joints become inflamed and joint tissue is damaged.
· Fibromyalgia- this condition causes widespread pain and stiffness throughout the body. The pain is accompanied with fatigue, sleep problems, and emotional/ mental distress.
· Gout- inflammatory arthritis that can be very painful. Often affects the big toe joint. Symptoms can flare up, and also go away (remission).
Though arthritis affects millions of people including children, it’s still not well understood. Symptoms can come and go and range from mild to severe. Diagnosis typically begins at your primary physician, then usually a rheumatologist, who specializes in arthritis, often gets involved. Blood tests and imaging will be performed. Arthritis can remain the same or progressively get worse over the years. It can lead to permanent joint damage. There are a variety of symptoms associated with arthritis including:
· Joint pain
· Redness in joints
· Loss of appetite
· Tender joints
· Decreased range of motion
How can you manage arthritis?
Physicians may prescribe medications to reduce pain and inflammation and even “disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs” which slow/ stop the immune system from attacking the joints.
Aside from medication there are other things you can do to help with symptoms:
· Regular exercise will keep joints flexible and also keep you at a healthy weight.
· Weight loss will help take extra pressure off weight bearing joints.
· Eat healthy*, limit highly processed, sugary foods and try an anti-inflammatory diet.
· Use heat/ cold packs for pain relief.
· Acupuncture has been shown to reduce pain caused by some forms of arthritis.
· Yoga helps improve and maintain joint flexibility.
· Massage therapy may temporarily relieve pain.
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