Perhaps because it is not as deadly as cancer or heart disease, arthritis does not get the attention it deserves. Arthritis is a very common condition affecting almost 50 million people. It is the most common cause of disability, and the numbers are increasing.
Perhaps because it is not as deadly as cancer or heart disease, arthritis does not get the attention it deserves.
Arthritis is a very common condition affecting almost 50 million people. It is the most common cause of disability, and the numbers are increasing.
The cost of caring for people with arthritis has been estimated to be approximately $128 billion a year. There are various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus arthritis, septic arthritis and traumatic arthritis.
The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, with osteoarthritis being the more common.
Osteoarthritis is usually due to the chronic wear and tear of the bones and cartilage. As cartilage wears away, the bones rub against each other, and this can be painful. The joints most commonly affected are hips, knees, neck, back and shoulders.
Rheumatoid arthritis is mainly because of inflammation and affects people of all ages. It also can be very debilitating.
It is predicted that the number of people with osteoarthritis will significantly increase in the future. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be 15 million more people diagnosed with arthritis. There are two main reasons for this.
One, people are living longer, exposing their bones and cartilage to more years of trauma. Secondly, the increase in obesity: Being overweight causes even more stress and strain on the joints.
In one study, 34 percent of obese women and 25 percent of obese men were diagnosed with arthritis. This is twice the number of people affected with arthritis compared to individuals who were underweight or of normal weight.
Reduction of obesity can reduce the risk of arthritis. One study showed that obese women, just by losing 11 pounds, can reduce their risk of osteoarthritis of the knee by 50 percent.
Although arthritis is associated with stiffness, pain and fatigue, newer forms of drug and surgical treatments have helped limit many of these symptoms.
One of the major advancements has been joint replacements. Knee and hip replacements are now very common and have allowed people who previously had difficulty ambulating to subsequently lead normal lives.
A price we pay for living longer is the development of arthritis and other medical maladies. It is a challenge to medical science to find ways to make these extra years as comfortable and healthy as possible.
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children in Massachusetts, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.