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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by the year 2040 —only a bit over twenty years away—26 percent of adult Americans, or 78 million people, will have been diagnosed by their physician with some form of arthritis. Here is what you need to know about this common ailment.
What Is Arthritis?
While arthritis is common, it's actually a family of many diseases rather than one. It's also not very well understood. When people think of arthritis, they think of joint pain or a disease that affects the joints.
The most common symptoms include joint pain, but swelling and stiffness in the joints as well as a decreased range of motion overtime are part of it as well. Additionally, there may be visible physical changes to the affected joints. Some types of arthritis can also affect the internal organs, wreaking havoc on the kidneys, heart, eyes, or lungs. Your skin can also be affected arthritis.
What Types Of Arthritis Affect People?
Osteoarthritis, sometimes referred to as degenerative arthritis, is very common. There may be a family history of the condition, but it may also result from carrying around excess weight, a prior injury to the joint or supporting ligaments, or simply the wear and tear associated with aging. As people are living longer, their joints cannot always keep up.
With degenerative arthritis, the cartilage begins breaking down. Instead of there being a cartilage cushion to protect the bones, the bones are now rubbing against one another. This will obviously cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and the unwillingness to move.
Unfortunately, this can set up a vicious circle, especially if the sufferer is overweight. Weight loss can help take pressure off of the joints, but if it hurts to move and the range of motion is reduced, increased activity and exercise is unlikely. Even without excess weight, the bones continue to deteriorate, and movement is avoided.
Inflammatory arthritis includes both rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. These are caused by an immune system that goes haywire and attacks the body. This is called an autoimmune response. Both the joints and other organs are affected. Autoimmune diseases may be genetic, or they may be triggered by environmental factors, such as smoking.
Infectious arthritis is arthritis that is set in motion by a bacteria, virus, or fungus that finds its way to one of your joints. It may be the result of a sexually transmitted disease, or it could be a result of an insect bite.
There are other types of arthritis as well. If you have joint pain, see your family doctor immediately. They can run some basic tests to see what they are dealing with and, if necessary, refer you to a rheumatologist, a physician who specializes in arthritis and other related diseases. For more information, contact a local health clinic like Snow Creek Medical Center.