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What Exactly is Arthritis? Part 1

by on Sep.20, 2011, under Arthritis

Arthritis affects approximately 43 million Americans. That number adds up to nearly one in every six people. This staggering number of people makes arthritis the most common chronic condition and the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Experts predict that by the year 2020, an estimated 60 million people will have some form of arthritis. It not only impacts the individual, but our nation as a whole. This increase in numbers will put a burden on individual families and cost the nation more than the almost $65 billion a year it now pays for this disease alone.

Generally speaking, arthritis affects the physical, psychological, social and economic well being of an individual. It can deprive people of their ability to remain independent and disrupt the lives of other family members. Physically, people experience pain, loss of movement and fatigue. The decrease in activity alone can increase their risk for other chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, overweight and depression. Psychological conditions such as stress, depression, anger and anxiety are common among people with arthritis. Their social habits often change and they frequently decrease their community involvement as well as family interaction. The financial burden of paying for prescription medication and frequent doctor visits is a major economic problem for each family.

The term arthritis includes more than hundred diseases affecting the surrounding tissues, the joints, and other connective tissues. Some of the more common forms of this disease are; rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus and gout.

Osteoarthritis or “degenerative joint disease,” often affects the hip, knee, foot, and hands, but can also affect other joints. The break down or degeneration of joint cartilage and eventually changes in the bone and supporting tissue lead to pain, stiffness, movement difficulty and even activity limitations.

The onset of osteoarthritis is slow, usually over a number of years until it becomes problematic. In some people, osteoarthritis can develop over a 10 to 20 year span. Its cause is not completely understood, but scientists know that trauma to the joint, misaligned joints at birth, injury playing a sport such as football, poor body mechanics over a life time and being obese are some of the factors that determine who develops osteoarthritis.

The onset of osteoarthritis can occur at any age, but is more prevalent after the age of 40. Until age 45, men get osteoarthritis more often than women. After that age, women get it more often.

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the inflammatory forms of arthritis. Symptoms include: joint inflammation, pain, stiffness and swelling in multiple joints. It is known for being an autoimmune disease that affects not only the joint bone and cartilage, but also other connective tissues and blood vessels throughout the body.

Inflammation can develop in a variety of organs, including the lungs and heart. If this happens, it increases a persons’ risk of developing respiratory and infectious diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease affecting both sides of the body. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis usually comes on more suddenly. It also progresses more quickly and needs to be treated very aggressively early on during the disease process to decrease the probability of joint deformity. Joint changes occur because of a disease process, not a mechanical problem, therefore the underlying disease process must be stopped or at least slowed down to maintain good joint function.

Since Rheumatoid arthritis is a more complex form of arthritis, a proper diagnosis and early treatment will achieve the best result. People diagnosed with this form of arthritis should seek out a rheumatologist for on- going treatment. Rheumatoid arthritis can begin early in life or even strike a middle aged adult. Women get this form of arthritis 3 times more often than men.

Pain medicines may be effective and successful in curing many kinds of pain, such as earaches, pain from arthritis, back pain, pain after surgery. Pain relievers are remedies that you can purchase without a prescription.

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