Arthritis causes pain, swelling and inflammation of one or more joints. It is not a single disease, but an umbrella term used to refer to a wide range of conditions. It is one of the most prevalent health conditions in the country.
There are over 100 types of arthritis, of which osteoarthritis is the most common. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, occurs over time due to wear and tear on the cartilage that protects the ends of bones. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disease most commonly affects the joints of the hands, knees, hips, and spine.
There are also inflammatory forms, such as rheumatoid arthritis; psoriatic arthritis; and arthritis associated with ankylosing spondylitis, lupus and gout. In these cases, the inflammation is caused by an overactive immune system attacking the connective tissues. (Read more about autoinflammatory arthritis.)
In the United States, an estimated 58.5 million people suffer from arthritis, the leading cause of disability. More than 50% of this population belongs to the working age group (18 to 64 years old).
Despite the frequency of this condition, several myths persist, making it confusing for patients looking to relieve their symptoms and improve their quality of life. This article aims to debunk these long-standing myths and clarify the facts!
Myth #1: Arthritis is a disease of old age and cannot affect children.
Fact: Arthritis is more common in older people, but there are several types that can affect children and young adults.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (also called childhood arthritis or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) is the most common type of arthritis in children and can cause permanent physical damage to the joints. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one in 1,000 children (or about 300,000 children in the United States) is affected.
Myth #2: All joint pain is arthritis.
Fact: There are many conditions – such as tendinitis, bursitis and other soft tissue injuries – that cause joint pain and have a similar pain profile to arthritis. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to obtain an accurate medical diagnosis, preferably by a rheumatologist, before treating any type of joint pain.
Myth #3: When you start to experience joint pain, you should wait to see if it goes away on its own.
Fact: Fake! Diagnosing and treating arthritis in its early stages can not only save your joints, but also prevent you from damaging vital organs. Some forms, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can damage the skin, eyes, lungs, blood vessels, brain, and heart. It’s important to determine what type of arthritis you have right away, as treatment varies, and starting the right treatment can be key to preventing permanent damage.
Myth #4: Arthritis symptoms cannot be improved.
Fact: There is currently no cure for arthritis. However, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. Working with an arthritis expert can help.
Depending on the type of arthritis, certain medications can reduce pain and inflammation. Osteoarthritis is often treated with pain medication, physical activity, weight loss (if the person is overweight), and self-management education. (Read more about treatment.) Inflammatory disorders are treated with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs that suppress the immune system. .
Heat and cold treatment and assistive devices, such as walkers, braces and gloves, can also help.
Myth #5: Exercising will make your condition worse.
Fact: Exercise can help increase strength, movement and flexibility and reduce pain and swelling. Inactivity can make symptoms worse, increasing both pain and swelling. Before signing up for an exercise program, it’s also important to know what your limits are and what level of exercise you can benefit from.