All About Arthritis: 3 Key Facts You Should Know
Roughly 54.4 million American adults were diagnosed with arthritis during 2013-2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest data. Arthritis, an illness that impacts your joint health, is extremely common and affects people of all ages. Whether you have arthritis yourself or you know a loved one who does, here are three key facts to remember:
Fact #1: Not all types of arthritis are the same.
We use the word “arthritis” when we’re talking about inflamed, swollen and painful joints – but arthritis doesn’t just refer to a single disease. Arthritis is an umbrella term that covers over 100 different illnesses, all of which impact joint health.
Joint pain is a symptom that all types of arthritis share in common, but what causes this joint pain varies widely. For example: osteoarthritis is caused by physical wear and tear on your joints, while rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disorder. These are just 2 of the most common types of arthritis – others include gout, psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia, all of which have unique causes.
Fact #2: The best way to prevent arthritis is by staying active and maintaining a healthy weight.
While some types of arthritis can’t be prevented, it’s important to minimize the strain on your joints to protect them from wear and tear. The 2 best ways to protect your joints are:
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight places extra strain on your joints and causes them to wear down faster. Managing your weight helps your joints stay healthier longer.
- Staying active. Exercise not only helps you manage your weight, but also strengthens the muscles around your joints for added support.
Fact #3: There are many treatment options for arthritis – and not all of them include surgery.
Lifestyle changes can be extremely beneficial for treating arthritis. Losing weight, exercising and using heating pads, ice packs and assistive devices are effective ways to minimize arthritis discomfort at home. Other treatment options include:
- Physical therapy, which can help ease pain for some types of arthritis.
- Taking arthritis medications as prescribed by your health care provider.
- Surgery, which may include joint repair, joint replacement or joint fusion.
Arthritis is a complex topic. If you have questions about your health needs, be sure to reach out to your health care provider for support.
Timothy Murphy, MD is an orthopedic surgeon in Greensboro, NC