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May is Arthritis Month

I always thought of arthritis as a condition of minor aches and pains that aging people experienced as part of the aging process.  However, I have done some research on the topic because May is recognized as Arthritis Month and I have found that the disease is not very simple to define.  Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions that can affect people of all ages, races and genders.  Here are some staggering statistics provided by the Arthritis Foundation regarding the growing burden of arthritis on the health care and economic systems in the United States:

  • Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
  • Arthritis is not just a disease of old age. Two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children.
  • Of the 50 million Americans with arthritis, more than 36 million are Caucasians, more than 4.6 million are African-Americans and 2.9 million are Hispanic.
  • Each year, people with arthritis account for 44 million outpatient visits and 992,100 hospitalizations.
  • Arthritis is actually a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

Arthritis can be difficult to diagnose but the most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. According to the Mayo Clinic, depending on the type of arthritis you have, your signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion

The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.   Osteoarthritis is usually caused by normal wear and tear, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Other types of arthritis can be caused by uric acid crystals, infections or even an underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus.

The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis involves wear-and-tear damage to your joint's cartilage — the hard, slick coating on the ends of bones. Enough damage can result in bone grinding directly on bone, which causes pain, swelling and restricted movement. This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can be hastened by a joint injury or infection.  (Mayo Clinic)

Risk factors for osteoarthritis, as identified by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, include

  • Being overweight
  • Getting older
  • Injuring a joint

No single test can diagnose osteoarthritis. Most doctors use several methods, including medical history, a physical exam, x-rays, or lab tests.  Treatments include exercise, medicines, and sometimes surgery.

Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is most common in the wrist and fingers.  It may also affect other body parts such as your eyes, mouth and lungs. More women than men get rheumatoid arthritis and the onset often occurs between ages 25 and 55. You might have the disease for only a short time, or symptoms might come and go. The severe form can last a lifetime.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which means the arthritis results from your immune system attacking your body's own tissues.  No one knows what causes rheumatoid arthritis. Genes, environment and hormones might contribute. Treatments include medicine, lifestyle changes and surgery. These can slow or stop joint damage and reduce pain and swelling.  (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Treatments vary depending on the type of arthritis. The main goals of arthritis treatments are to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services there is strong evidence indicating that both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits for people with osteoarthritis and rheumatic conditions.  And there is a growing body of research that indicates that exercise, weight management and the avoidance of joint injury can go a long way in helping to prevent osteoarthritis.  The use of heating pads and ice packs may help relieve arthritis pain and assistive devices such as canes, walkers or raised toilet seats help protect your joints and improve your ability to perform daily tasks.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with arthritis and you need help with daily tasks, contact SYNERGY HomeCare of North Orange County.  SYNERGY HomeCare provides companionship, housekeeping, transportation and personal care services for those who reside in North Orange County.  SYNERGY HomeCare of North Orange County services Fullerton, Anaheim, Brea, Orange, Silverado, Tustin, Yorba Linda, Santa Ana, Placentia, Foothill Ranch and more.  Contact us today for a free, no-obligation visit to your home to assess your personal care needs.  We provide quality, compassionate care, with no contracts, and no minimums.

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