Understanding Arthritis

Get the Facts

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with arthritis, it is important to learn more about the disease and its potential impact. However, pinning down the facts about arthritis can be difficult. Despite striking more than 50 million Americans, arthritis is an often misunderstood disease with a core of common myths surrounding it.

Myth #1: Arthritis is just minor aches and pains associated with getting older.
Fact: Arthritis is actually a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions that can affect people of all ages, races and genders.

  •  Arthritis is not just a disease of old age. Two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children.
  • Of the more than 50 million Americans with arthritis, more than 36 million are Caucasians, more than 4.6 million are African-Americans and 2.9 million are Hispanic.

Arthritis can take many forms, but three of the common diseases that make up arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage associated with risk factors, such as overweight/obesity, history of joint injury and age. Read more about osteoarthritis.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membranes lining the joint, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage. Read more about rheumatoid arthritis
  • Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger. Read more about juvenile arthritis

Learn more about arthritis and how to manage and live with the disease.

Myth #2: Arthritis is not a serious health problem.
Fact: Arthritis places a growing burden on the health care and economic systems in this country.

  • Each year, people with arthritis account for 44 million outpatient visits and 992,100 hospitalizations.
  • Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
  • Arthritis is actually a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
  • Within 20 years the number of people with arthritis will soar. By 2030, an estimated 67 million Americans will have arthritis, unless the trend is reversed.

See how the Arthritis Foundation's is working to make a difference by working with Congress and the CDC.

Myth #3: People with arthritis should avoid exercising.    
Fact: Exercise is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis.

  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services there is strong evidence indicating that both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits for people with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatic conditions.
  • A growing body of research indicates that exercise, weight management and the avoidance of joint injury can go a long way in helping to prevent OA.
  • Every one pound of weight loss results in four pounds of pressure taken off each knee.

Discover the best ways to exercise if you have arthritis.

Myth #4: Not much can be done for arthritis.
Fact: Relief is available and new treatments are in the pipeline.

The Arthritis Foundation helps people who already have arthritis to live better with arthritis by

The Arthritis Foundation also looks to the future through

  • Research to determine the underlying causes of arthritis and find more effective treatment and eventually a cure