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Take a Stand Against Arthritis

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, and ATRIO Health Plans is spotlighting this often-debilitating disease that–according to the Arthritis Foundation (AF)–affects nearly 53-million Americans, making it the number one cause of disability nationwide. In fact, one in every five adults–along with 300,000 children and teens–are impacted by arthritis.

While people tend to associate arthritis with the aches and pains of aging, arthritis sufferers span the age spectrum. In fact, the AF reports that two-thirds of those with arthritis are under the age of 65.

About Arthritis

Although arthritis is associated with inflammation of a joint or joints, it's actually a complex family of more than 100 musculoskeletal disorders that affect the joints or tissues around the joint. Specific symptoms vary depending on the type of arthritis. However, frequently cited symptoms include:

  • pain or aching;
  • stiffness;
  • swelling;
  • redness;
  • less range of motion.

While the list of arthritis types is lengthy, the three most prevalent diseases under the arthritis umbrella are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) – The most common form of arthritis, OA is a progressive, degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage. Pain can be felt in one or multiple joints, including the fingers, elbows, hips, shoulders, ankles, knees, neck, and toes.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) – RA is a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membranes lining the joint, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling, and sometimes severe joint damage. In addition to joints, RA can affect other tissues throughout the body and negatively impact organs such as the lungs, heart, and eyes.
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) – JIA is the most common type of arthritis in children, and is an overarching term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in those ages 16 and younger. JIA causes persistent joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. While some children's symptoms are short term, others will contend with arthritis throughout their lives.

Reduce Your Risks

While there's no guaranteed path to arthritis prevention, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of damaging your joints and potentially causing arthritis, including:

  • Maintain a healthy weight – Overweight and obese individuals are at greater risk for osteoarthritis, particularly in the weight-bearing joints. Additionally, a chemical related to obesity upsets the balance between the buildup and breakdown of cartilage. Over time, this too can lead to osteoarthritis.
  • Keep blood sugar in check - The latest research suggests that diabetes may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.
  • Do low-impact exercises – Regular exercise not only promotes weight control, but it also results in stronger, more flexible joints. When exercising, however, it’s important not to inflict joint damage; instead, choose low-impact activities such as biking, swimming, walking, yoga, or Pilates.
  • Prevent and treat injuries – Repeated ankle sprains, or improperly treated sprains, can lead to arthritis in your ankles; this, in turn, can negatively impact other joints, such as knees and hips. As a result, it’s important to take sprains and strains seriously.
  • Reduce repetitive strain on muscles and joints – If you experience chronic aches and pains–while at work or when engaging in a recreational activity–see a physician, as repetitive strain can cause micro-trauma to joints and adjacent soft tissue, which can eventually lead to osteoarthritis.