Top Myths About Arthritis (Video)

(VIDEO: Watch Tatiana Ivan, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician, speak about the importance of seeking a diagnosis and treatment for arthritic conditions.)

Arthritis affects an estimated 52.5 million U.S. adults, more than 1 in 5, and it is the nation’s most common cause of disability. With the so-called Baby Boom generation starting to enter retirement, the number of adults diagnosed with some form of arthritis is expected to soar close to 70 million by 2030.

The most common form of arthritis in the Unites States is osteoarthritis followed by gout, and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is by far the most common, affecting 14 percent of adults aged 25 years and older and 34 percent of those 65 and older. That’s close to an estimated 30 million U.S. adults,  up from 21 million in 1990, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC concedes that these are conservative estimates.

The CDC suggests that you see your doctor if you have pain, stiffness, or swelling in or around one or more of your joints. It is important to keep in mind that there are many forms of arthritis, and a specific diagnosis of the type you have may help to direct the proper treatment.

“The earlier your primary physician can understand and pinpoint your type of arthritis, the earlier that the disease can start to be treated,” said Tatiana Ivan, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care Family Medicine Center at West Kendall Baptist Hospital. “Your doctor can help you get started on making healthy lifestyle changes to help your arthritis.”

Those lifestyle changes likely will include exercise, changes in diet and medications to control pain and inflammation. Maintaining a healthy weight has proven to alleviate arthritic pain, especially related to back and knee pain, as well as minimize joint damage and improving functionality.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis most often develop gradually and include:

  • Joint aching and soreness, especially with movement;
  • Pain after overuse or after long periods of inactivity;
  • Stiffness after periods of rest;
  • Bony enlargements in the middle and end joints of the fingers (which may or may not be painful);
  • Joint swelling.
  • May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, an observance that was initiated by the Arthritis Foundation through a Presidential Proclamation in 1972.  The Foundation provides the following information to help debunk myths about arthritis, which could prevent individuals from see a doctor or getting the proper treatment.

    Myth #1: Arthritis is just about the aches and pains associated with getting older.

    That’s far from the truth. Arthritis is not just a disease that affects older people. Two-thirds of individuals with arthritis are under the age of 65, including an estimated 300,000 children. Of the more than 50 million Americans with arthritis, more than 36 million are Caucasians, more than 4.6 million are African-Americans and 2.9 million are Hispanic, says the Arthritis Foundation.

    Moreover, arthritis is not just about common aches and pains.

    Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease, marked by the breakdown of joint cartilage. Its risk factors include obesity, or being overweight, or having a history of joint injury.

    Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic disease, an inflammation of the membranes lining the joints, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage.

    Juvenile Arthritis is a broad term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.

    Myth #2: Arthritis is not a serious health problem.

    Arthritis is not only the leading cause of disability in the United States, it is actually a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes, according to the Arthritis Foundation. With the Baby Boom generation growing older, the number of people with arthritis is expected to soar over the next two decades. By 2030, an estimated 67 million Americans will have arthritis.

    Myth #3: People with arthritis should avoid exercising.  

    False. Actually, there is strong evidence that both cardiovascular exercises and light weight-resistance training can provide considerable benefits for people with osteoarthritis and rheumatic conditions. Research indicates that exercise, weight management and the avoidance of joint injury can go a long way in helping to prevent Osteoarthritis.

    Myth #4: Not much can be done for arthritis.

    There are a growing number of treatments for many types of arthritis, including physical therapies and other pain-managing strategies, in addition to healthy lifestyle changes that include diet and exercise. “There are growing number of options for treating arthritis, but the worse thing to do is ignore symptoms and not seek help,” said Dr. Ivan.

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