|Arthritis: A Crippling Trend|
|Monday, 01 February 2010 01:09|
By Pamela Freeman-Fobbs
Today, 70 million Americans are afflicted with arthritis. Arthritis and the disability it causes create huge burdens for individuals, their families and the nation. In 1995, arthritis cost more than $22 billion in direct medical costs and over $82 billion in total costs. People who suffer from prevalent forms of arthritis struggle with everyday activities like getting dressed, brushing their teeth and pouring a cup of coffee. They may even have to quit or change jobs because arthritis prevents them from being able to work.Richard Bertken, M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine and Director of the Arthritis Clinic at University of California San Francisco, Fresno, CA/Cedar Avenue Campus, classifies rheumatoid arthritis as a public health problem because less than 15% of Americans who suffer from arthritis actually get the treatment that they need.
ARTHRITIS LINKED TO HIGHER OBESITY RATES IN BABY BOOMERS
Dr. Bertken, also Director of Arthritis Services at the Fresno VA Medical Center, states that the average age of the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is 35-40. He also says that many women in this age group manifest symptoms of osteoarthritis due to obesity. Osteoarthritis is oftentimes the result of extreme weight bearing upon the joints. "I have practiced for 30 years and I am now seeing a huge increase in the number of obese, middle-aged women experiencing pain in their knees. Gastric-bypass surgery is now being indicated for a diagnosis of osteo-arthritis," he said.Harvard Medical School researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center discovered that baby boomers have significantly higher rates of arthritis than their parents. They concluded that this is due to baby boomers having spent more years living with obesity than the previous generation. The study found that "baby boomers got a much earlier start, and have spent more of their lives in an obese state even though they have had better access to nutrition and information about exercise for much of their lives," said Suzanne Leveille, PhD, author of the study.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ARTHRITIS
TYPES OF ARTHRITIS
OSTEOARTHRITIS:: mostly affects the joints—unlike other types of arthritis which may have systemic effects. The most common symptom associated with osteoarthritis is pain in the affected joint after repeated use. Joint pain is often worse later in the day. The affected joints can swell, feel warm and become stiff after prolonged inactivity. Osteoarthritis can occur with other forms of arthritis simultaneously. Bone spurs and bony
PSORIATIC ARTHRITIS: is a type of arthritis associated with psoriasis (a skin condition characterized by red, patchy, raised or scaly areas) and chronic joint symptoms. The symptoms of psoriasis and joint inflammations often develop separately. Symptoms associated with psoriatic arthritis vary in how they occur (symmetrical or asymmetrical) and what joints are affected. Any joint in the body can be affected. When psoriasis causes pitting and thickening or discolored fingernails, the joints nearest the fingertips are likely to become arthritic.
ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS: is commonly associated with inflammations that starts at the lower spine or sacroiliac joints. The earliest symptoms are often chronic pain and stiffness in the lower back region and hips. Typical ankylosing pain in the back worsens following rest or inactivity. As symptoms of pain and stiffness progress up the spine to the neck, possibly including the rib cage area, bones may fuse.
LUPUS: can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, lungs, heart, nervous system and other organs of the body. It is not uncommon for symptoms associated with lupus to resemble symptoms associated with other types of arthritis and rheumatic disease, making lupus difficult to diagnose. A butterfly-shaped rash appearing on the cheeks and over the bridge of the nose (malar rash) is one of the distinguishing characteristics of lupus.
GOUT: is considered one of the most intensely painful types of arthritis. Gout is characterized by the sudden onset of severe pain, tenderness, warmth, redness and swelling from inflammation of the affected joint. Gout usually affects a single joint, most often the big toe. The knee, ankle, foot, hand, wrist and elbow may also be affected. Shoulders, hips and spine are rarely affected by gout. Often the first gout attack occurs at night.
There are other types of arthritis and joint inflammation conditions to consider as well: Fibromyalgia, Sjogren's Syndrome, scleroderma, reactive arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, lyme disease, pseudo gout, Raynaud's Phenomenon, polymyositis and tendonitis. The process of identifying a specific type of arthritis is not always quick or easy. Individual symptoms and symptom patterns can make diagnosing arthritis tricky. Being aware of and tracking early symptoms is a definite advantage in detection and diagnosis.
LIVING WITH ARTHRITIS
Balneotherapy, also known as hydrotherapy or spa therapy, is an ancient form of therapy that involves baths to sooth pain. Some arthritis patients have reported relief using such baths.
The National Institute of Health is currently conducting clinical trials to examine whether relaxation response, tai chi, stress management and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help patients with rheumatoid arthritis feel better.
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