My mother used to have severe pain in her knees due to arthritis before she got replacements in them. I remember how swollen they looked. She told me that the arthritis might have been the result of scrubbing the floor on her knees. Since then they hurt and her mother put on them but they burned her. There were times when my mother asked me to massage her knees because they hurt. And what made it worse was the lack of bone density which made the bones in her knees rub together. My mother-in-law has arthritis in her knees too and one of my aunts has rheumetoid arthritis.
Just recently on TV I saw a promotion for the 2012 Walk to Fight Arthritis which takes place across Canada on June 10. This got me thinking about writing a post on Arthritis. What is Arthritis and what causes it? What are the symptoms? Can we prevent it? I searched the Internet to find the answers to these questions and learned so much in the process.
Here are 10 facts about arthritis:
- Arthritis is far from a new disease. In fact, many researchers believe it has been a part of civilization since the beginning of time, even affecting dinosaurs millions of years ago. Researchers also believe that skeletal remains from humans living around 4500 B.C. show signs of the disease.
- Did you know that the word arthritis literally means joint inflammation? That’s right, the word arthritis comes from the Greek words for joint (arthro) and inflammation (-itis).
- There are over 100 forms of arthritis, including little talked about diseases like Kawasaki disease, which involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and Sweet’s syndrome, which is a skin condition marked by fever and painful skin lesions.
- Were you aware that arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States? According to the CDC, arthritis and rheumatic conditions cost the U.S. economy $128 billion annually and result in 44 million outpatient visits and 9,367 deaths each year.
- Movement is one of the best treatment options for arthritis and can help most people prevent the onset of the disease in the first place. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports that strong evidence indicates both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits for persons with osteoarthritis (OA) and other rheumatic conditions.
- Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is a chronic disease that affects some 27 million Americans. OA is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, which can cause stiffness and pain.
- There are two types of OA – primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is generally associated with aging and the “wear and tear” of life. The older you are, the more likely you are to have some degree of primary osteoarthritis. Secondary osteoarthritis, in contrast, tends to develop relatively early in life, typically 10 or more years after a specific cause, such as an injury or obesity.
- Did you know that children get arthritis too? Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are living with juvenile arthritis. Juvenile arthritis (JA) refers to any form of arthritis or an arthritis-related condition that develops in children or teenagers who are less than 18 years of age.
- Juvenile arthritis is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, occurring nearly as often as insulin-dependent juvenile diabetes. The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), which has two peaks of onset: between 1 and 3 years of age and between 8 and 12 years of age.
- Arthritis is more common among women (24.9%) than men (18.1%), and girls are twice as likely to develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as boys.
Exactly how much heredity or genetics contributes to the cause of arthritis is not well understood. However, there are likely genetic variations that can contribute to the cause of arthritis.
Cartilage becomes more brittle with age and has less of a capacity to repair itself. As people grow older they are more likely to develop arthritis.
Because joint damage is partly dependent on the load the joint has to support, excess body weight can lead to arthritis. This is especially true of the hips and knees that can be worn quickly in heavier patients.
- Previous Injury
Joint damage can cause irregularities in the normal smooth joint surface. Previous major injuries can be part of the cause of arthritis. An example of an injury leading to arthritis is a tibial plateau fracture, where the broken area of bone enters the cartilage of the knee joint.
- Occupational Hazards
Workers in some specific occupations seem to have a higher risk of developing arthritis than other jobs. These are primarily high demand jobs such as assembly line workers and heavy construction.
- Some High-Level Sports
It is difficult to determine how much sports participation contributes to development of arthritis. Certainly, sports participation can lead to joint injury and subsequent arthritis. However, the benefits of activity likely outweigh any risk of arthritis.
- Illness or Infection
People who experience a joint infection (septic joint), multiple episodes of gout, or other medical conditions, can develop arthritis of the joint.
According to a Mayo Clinic Study, rheumatoid arthritis is on the rise among women. In rheumatoid arthritis, women are up to three times more likely to develop the condition than men. Many women with rheumatoid arthritis go into remission during pregnancy. To date, no one has been able to determine the exact cause of this beneficial effect, but one theory is that changes in hormone levels may effect the level of proteins in the blood that contribute to inflammation.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints. Inflammation of the joints from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth. Tenderness of the inflamed joint can be present.
Many of the forms of arthritis, because they are rheumatic diseases, can cause symptoms affecting various organs of the body that do not directly involve the joints. Therefore, symptoms in some patients with certain forms of arthritis can also include fever, gland swelling (swollen lymph nodes),weight loss, fatigue, feeling unwell, and even symptoms from abnormalities of organs such as the lungs, heart, or kidneys.
Are there ways to prevent arthritis? According to the Arthritis Foundation, it can be. They offer these common tips for prevention:
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to help maintain your recommended weight. Women who are overweight have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knees. Learn more about nutrition.
- Talk to your doctor about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Having insufficient levels of vitamin D decreases the amount of calcium your body can absorb. That coupled with lower calcium levels as you age can help contribute to osteoporosis. Check out the Arthritis Today Vitamin & Mineral Guide.
- Exercise regularly to strengthen muscles around joints and help increase bone density. Exercise may reduce wear and tear on your joints, which can help prevent injury and reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. Increased bone density also can help stave off osteoporosis. Check out some exercise routines or get moving with the Arthritis Foundation.
- Avoid smoking and limit your alcohol consumption to help avoid osteoporosis. Both habits weaken the structure of bone, which puts you at higher risk for fractures.
- Discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with your primary care provider if you are postmenopausal. Many women lose bone mass during the pre- and postmenopausal years when their ovaries stop producing estrogen. One of estrogen’s functions is to help keep calcium in the bones and maintain bone mass. Lowered estrogen level is a major cause of osteoporosis in women after menopause.
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