The Arthritis Foundation, along with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), declared May as Arthritis Awareness Month several years ago to draw attention to this painful, chronic, and common condition. According to the CDC, arthritis affects 25 percent of adults in the United States and is a leading cause of chronic pain. The percentage equates to over 54 million people who deal with the symptoms of arthritis.
Unfortunately, the pain of arthritis isn’t limited to adults. The Arthritis Foundation states that approximately 300,000 children have this chronic health condition as well. It also provides the following statistics to underscore the importance of awareness and funding for arthritis research:
- The number of adults with arthritis is expected to grow to 67 million by 2020
- One-third of adults with arthritis over age 45 experience anxiety or depression because of it
- Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States
- Slightly more than one-third of adults with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 have arthritis
- Adults aged 18 to 64 who have arthritis are less likely to maintain steady employment than those without the condition
- 44 percent of adults who have high blood pressure, 52 percent with diabetes, and 57 percent with heart disease also have arthritis
- One-third of working adults with arthritis have a work-related limitation due to arthritis, such as the types of tasks they can perform and the number of hours they can work each week
- Arthritis is responsible for one million hospitalizations every year
- People who have the two major types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, miss a combined total of 172 million work days each year
- The economic loss of arthritis is $156 billion annually, which includes medical expenses and missed time from work
Understanding the Different Types of Arthritis
The CDC describes arthritis as swelling or inflammation of one or more of the body’s joints. The term includes at least 100 distinct conditions that affect the joints, tissues that surround them, and other connective tissues. If you have arthritis, the symptoms you experience depend on the specific type that you have. However, stiffness and pain in the joints are common with all types. We discuss the current classifications of arthritis below.
Also called juvenile arthritis, childhood begins in childhood and can be disabling. Since the physical damage to joints is sometimes permanent, it makes it difficult for children to gain independence and complete everyday tasks such as getting dressed or even walking. There is no cure for childhood arthritis, but some children do go into permanent remission. While the disease is then no longer active, the damage to joints during its active phase remains. The most common symptoms of childhood arthritis include:
- Appetite loss
- Difficulty with activities of daily living
- Eye inflammation
- Joint pain
Fibromyalgia causes pain all over the body. People who have this condition have more sensitive pain receptors than those without it. It affects approximately four million adults in the United States. Typical symptoms include:
- Digestive issues
- Face or jaw pain
- Headaches, including migraines
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- Problems with concentration, memory, and thinking clearly
- Stiffness and pain throughout the body
Gout is an extremely painful form of arthritis that typically affects one joint at a time. This is often the big toe. Obese adults and men are more likely than people with a healthy body weight and women to develop gout. The pain associated with a gout flare-up is typically worse in the first few hours, but it can last for more than a day.
When you have lupus, your body’s immune system attacks its tissues for unknown reasons. This causes widespread inflammation and pain. The most common type of lupus is systemic lupus erythematosus, which affects different body parts as well as internal organs. This includes the joints along with the blood vessels, brain, kidneys, lungs, and skin. The most common symptoms associated with lupus include fatigue, fever, joint pain, and swelling. Lupus may go into remission for several years, and its severity ranges from mild to potentially life-threatening.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of the disease, also goes by the name degenerative disc disease. It typically causes symptoms in the hips, knees, and hands. When you have osteoarthritis, the bones and cartilage begin to break down. This happens slowly at first and then gradually worsens over time. Common osteoarthritis symptoms include aching, decreased range of motion, pain, swelling, and stiffness.
As the second most common form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis causes an autoimmune and inflammatory response. The painful swelling occurs when your immune system attacks healthy body cells instead of protecting them. It can affect many joints at the same time, particularly those of the knees, wrists, and hands. Damage to tissues can cause chronic pain and problems with balance. Typical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Aching and pain in more than one joint
- Stiffness and/or tenderness in more than one joint
- Same symptoms in both knees, wrists, hands, or other body parts
- Unintended weight loss
Risk Factors Associated with Arthritis
The CDC identifies both controllable and uncontrollable risk factors of arthritis. Those you can’t change include your age, gender, and genetic inheritance of certain types of arthritis. The condition is slightly more common in women and it increases with age.
Being overweight or obese, infections and joint injuries can also increase your risk. It’s important to lose weight if necessary and to seek prompt treatment for any infections or joint injuries. Certain occupations also cause more symptoms of arthritis, such as those that require repetitive squatting, bending of the knees, or hand motions like typing.
Request a Referral to a Rheumatologist
If you’re experiencing symptoms that you think could be related to any form of arthritis, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider at Western Maryland Health System (WMHS).
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.