Arthritis: does this disease affect you or someone you love?

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What is arthritis?


Arthritis, and its many types, are part of a broader category of medical conditions called rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases include issues which affect your musculoskeletal system. Arthritis is a term generally used to describe pain in your joints that's chronic or recurring over time.

A study from the CDC estimated that over 22% of adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis and, of those with diagnosed arthritis, nearly 44% have limitations to their usual activities due to their diagnosis. In Bartholomew County, Indiana, the CDC estimated that 28% of adults have an arthritis diagnosis.

There are many types of arthritis someone may experience throughout their life and it isn't uncommon for joint pain to be a symptom of other conditions. We'll explore a few of the common types of arthritis to help get you started understanding the potential condition you or a loved one may be facing.


Common types of arthritis


Osteoarthritis


One of the most common causes of joint pain is called osteoarthritis. It's estimated that over 32 million adults  (approximately 13% of the adult population) in the United States are affected by osteoarthritis, though it's far more common in older adults.


Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage found in your joints breaks down. There are many causes of osteoarthritis covering everything from underuse through lack of exercise to overuse through repetitive use injuries. Unfortunately, the body doesn't experience issues in isolation, so another condition could accelerate the break down of your cartilage causing the osteoarthritis to appear.


Rheumatoid arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of arthritis whose cause, while unknown, is suspected to be genetic. Approximately 0.6% of the United States adult population has Rheumatoid Arthritis (pdf). It's an autoimmune disease which, essentially, causes the body to see its own connective tissue as foreign. When a foreign entity is found in the body, the immune system attacks it in order to eliminate it or, more generally, shield it from the rest of the body. The connective tissue in question, called the synovium, is a type of tissue that lines your joints. When a person has rheumatoid arthritis, the synovium becomes inflamed, as a result of the body's attempt to fight off the artificial problem. The immune response causes the redness and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis.


Gout


Gout is a condition that comes from a waste product in the body that doesn't get filtered out. Gout affects approximately 4% of the adult population in the United States. The waste product, called uric acid, naturally occurs when your body breaks down certain types of foods and drinks. If you're interested in learning about your uric acid levels, the traditional laboratory tests, from Dr. Inman's nutritional counseling service, include a reading of uric acid levels.

When there's a buildup of uric acid, urate crystals are formed. These crystals often accumulate in joints. It's fairly common to see gout in joints that are close to the skin and don't have large amounts of muscle or fat obscuring the joint. This is why gout is frequently associated with the big toe. As with other forms of arthritis, gout is often a chronic condition that induces swelling and redness in the affected area.


Fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia is often grouped with arthritic conditions due to its pain profile and similarity to arthritis, but it's not considered arthritis since it doesn't specifically affect joints. It affects a much smaller portion of the adult population in the United States (approximately 4 million people or 2% of adults), relative to conditions like osteoarthritis.

Surprisingly, there isn't a known cause of fibromyalgia. Its symptoms include pain in many parts of the body, an increased sensitivity to pain, and symptoms that would result from chronic pain like mental and emotional stress, sleep issues, and fatigue. With proper treatment, Fibromyalgia can be managed and quality of life can be improved.



Treating and preventing arthritis



There are many types of treatment for arthritis and similar conditions. Of course, the treatment is dependent on the specific type of arthritis that a person is experiencing. That being said, many types of arthritis and their symptoms can be improved with components of a healthy lifestyle: proper diet, adequate sleep, and exercise. Building the habits of a healthy lifestyle takes time, but can significantly improve how you feel now and as you age.

Proper hydration can help the body eliminate the waste products associated with gout. Following an appropriate exercise regimen can improve joint and other connective tissue health. Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces the likelihood that you experience chronic issues throughout your life. Limiting or avoiding unhealthy substances like tobacco and alcohol can reduce the incidence of chronic illnesses. These are often repeated because scientific evidence shows that following these healthy guidelines, leads to a longer, healthier life.

However, sometimes the genes you've been born with lead to unavoidable issues. With Dr. Inman's genetic testing, you'll get an idea of all sorts of genetic conditions to which you're predisposed. In instances where you do have a genetic condition, it makes sense to seek out the advice of a medical professional so you don't have to suffer alone and can begin to feel better sooner.