According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Americans suffering from arthritis is growing. The disease is now the leading cause of disability across the country and more women are being diagnosed than ever before. So what exactly is arthritis, and how can you prevent it? Read on to learn more.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a joint disorder that stems from inflammation. It usually happens when two joints grate up against each other after the protective cartilage (a liquidy substance that prevents bones from touching) has worn away, but arthritis can also be caused from an autoimmune response.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are over 100 diagnosed forms of arthritis. It can develop because of wear and tear to cartilage, like osteoarthritis, or, it can be associated with inflammation resulting from immune system disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis.
Causes of arthritis
There are several reasons a person can develop arthritis. These include:
Injury to a joint
Metabolic problems like gout
Hereditary factors (especially if a blood relative has it)
Many of the other reasons arthritis develops are still unclear.
Symptoms of arthritis
People who suffer from arthritis can experience dozens of painful symptoms, including inflammation and redness at the site of a joint, joint stiffness, swelling and tenderness.
Serious cases of arthritis can lead to even more complicated symptoms, including fever, gland swelling, weight loss, fatigue, and problems with the lungs, heart or kidneys.
Who is at risk for arthritis?
Almost anyone can be affected by arthritis. Approximately 350 million people suffer from the condition worldwide, including 40 million Americans. More than half of those with arthritis are under the age of 65 and nearly 60 percent are women.
How do you know if you have arthritis? The first step in diagnosing the disease is to know the symptoms (see above). If you start noticing recurrent joint pain or inflammation see your doctor immediately. From there, your doctor will likely ask for blood samples and order x-rays of your affected joints. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will send you to a rheumatologist, a doctor with special training in arthritis and related diseases. From there, you'll be prescribed a treatment plan appropriate for your condition.
Treatments for arthritis
Treatment largely depends on the type of arthritis you are diagnosed with. Common treatments include:
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Splinting (where your joints are immobilized for a period of time to reduce swelling)
Ice therapy (where you are asked to ice the joints regularly)
Tips to prevent arthritis
There are several things you can do decrease your chances of developing arthritis. Here are just a few:
1. Get regular activity. Not only is exercise good for your heart and cardiovascular system, it's also good for your bones, muscles and joints.
2. Stretch. Stretching will increase muscle tone and can help boost the range of motion of your joints. Just make sure you warm up your muscles and joints before stretching – stretching before warming up can further aggravate joint pain and even strain your muscles.