WI Staff | 9/3/2014, 3 p.m.
Nearly 40 million Americans – or one in every seven people – have arthritis. And while the condition affects people of all ages, it most often sets in as a person gets older.
Arthritis usually causes stiffness, pain and fatigue and the severity varies from person to person, even from day-to-day.
For instance, in some people only a few joints are affected and the impact may be small. In other instances, the entire body system may be affected.
“The inflammation that affects joints is a huge problem,” Dr. Peter Atherton, a family physician for about 30 years, said in a broadcast interview. “And many of the world’s population suffers from some form of arthritis,” he said, adding that “this illness can cause joint pain, stiffness and lack of mobility and eventually, deformity.”
Atherton adds that while many conditions affect people’s lives, perhaps none can be more debilitating than arthritis.
Information from the University of Washington’s Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, states that the many types of arthritis show signs of joint inflammation such as swelling, stiffness tenderness, redness or warmth.
These symptoms, which may be accompanied by weight loss fever or weakness, and when they last for more than two weeks, inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, may be the cause.
In addition, joint inflammation may also be caused by infection which can lead to septic arthritis, with degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, being the most common type of arthritis.
While normal joints can support a vast amount of use, mechanical abnormalities of a joint make it susceptible to degeneration.
Overall, the focus of treatment for arthritis is to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain function and quality of life.
But because arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 conditions, disorders and diseases, healthcare experts say there is no simple answer – much less one correct answer – on preventing and managing the condition.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, the treatment of arthritis might involve medication, physical or occupational therapy, splints or joint assistive aids, weight loss and patient education and support.
However, in conjunction with medical treatment, self-management of arthritis symptoms is very important as well, with there being a number of physical activity programs that assist in support self- management.
They include the Arthritis Foundation’s exercise and aquatic programs – all of which are good examples for helping people with arthritis increase their physical activity.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, University of Washington Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine