UNDERSTANDING ARTHRITIS: ERADICATING MYTHS

Arthritis has been recognized for perhaps thousands of years. Unfortunately, many misconceptions about this chronic condition have been around for almost as long. We will try to debunk some of the most commonly held myths about arthritis.

Myth: Arthritis is a disease associated with aging.

Fact: Arthritis affects people of all ages, including children.

One common myth is that arthritis is just another name for the aches and pains people get as they grow older. While it is true that arthritis becomes more common as people as people age, arthritis may begin at any age. Nearly 300,000 children live with arthritis and two-thirds of people living with the disease are under the age of 65. Some of the most serious forms of arthritis occur in teenagers or people in their 20s and 30s

Myth: Arthritis is just aches and pains -- not a serious health problem.

Fact: Arthritis is America’s leading cause of disability.

Arthritis is more than just aches and pains. It is America’s leading cause of disability, affecting about one in every five adult Americans and 300,000 children. Arthritis is a major cause of work limitations for nearly one in three people in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. In addition, the impact of arthritis on society is substantial. Annually it costs the economy $128 billion.

Myth: All kinds of arthritis are alike.

Fact: Arthritis comprises more than 100 conditions.

Arthritis is an umbrella term that encompasses more than 100 different conditions. Many forms of arthritis or musculoskeletal conditions are self-limited and get better without specific treatment. Others, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may be quite serious and may affect the body's internal organs as well as the joints.

Myth: Not much can be done to combat arthritis.

Fact: You can change the course of arthritis.

You may think that little can be done to help your arthritis, but this is not true. Some improvement in the pain and loss of function is possible in almost everyone with arthritis. Furthermore, the disease process that may lead to joint destruction can be controlled effectively in most people, particularly those with rheumatoid arthritis. More can be done today to ease the pain of arthritis and to slow joint destruction than ever before.

Many people with serious types of arthritis, which were severely disabling as recently as a generation ago, are now leading full and productive lives, thanks in part to many developments, including new drugs and treatments, exercise programs, surgeries and self-management. As a person with arthritis, your future is full of possibilities that were only a dream 25 years ago.

One of the most exciting changes in recent years has been the growing understanding that the patient has an important role to play in the management of his or her arthritis. Simple steps, like protecting your joints, weight control and staying active can help reduce arthritis pain, increase mobility and lead toward a more active independent life.

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