Provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What is arthritis?
Arthritis comprises over 100 different diseases and conditions. The most common are osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Common symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness and swelling in or around the joints. Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.
Why is arthritis a public health problem?
An estimated 1 in 5 U.S. adults reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to annual estimates. As the U.S. population ages, these numbers are likely to increase dramatically.
Arthritis is the nation's leading cause of disability. Millions of U.S. adults report activity limitations because of arthritis each year. Work limitations attributable to arthritis affect more than 5% of the general U.S. population and nearly 30% of people with arthritis. Each year, arthritis results in 750,000 hospitalizations and 36 million outpatient visits. Arthritis is not just an old person's disease. Nearly two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than 65. Although arthritis affects children and people of all racial and ethnic groups, it is more common among women and older adults.
More than half of adults with diabetes or heart disease also have arthritis. The presence of arthritis can complicate management of these chronic conditions by presenting an additional barrier to healthier lifestyles, such as increased pain during physical activity.
What can be done to target arthritis?
There are effective ways to prevent arthritis and to reduce the symptoms, lessen the disability, and improve the quality of life for people with arthritis. For example:
- Weight control and injury prevention measures can lower a person's risk for osteoarthritis.
- The pain and disability that accompany arthritis can be decreased through early diagnosis and appropriate management, including self-management activities such as weight control and physical activity.
- Self-management education programs can reduce pain and costs. The Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program teaches people how to manage arthritis and lessen its effects. This 6-week course reduces arthritis pain by 20% and physician visits by 40%. However, less than 1% of Americans with doctor-diagnosed arthritis participate in such programs, and courses are not offered in all areas of the country. More widespread use of this course and similar programs, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, could save money and reduce the burden of arthritis.
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