Arthritis is a family of disorders that affect the muscles and bones. There are more than 100 different diseases in the group. They affect people of all ages, genders and races. These include approximately 300,000 children in the U.S. The bottom line, really, is that arthritis can affect anyone.
Types of Arthritis
The three most common forms of arthritis are:
Osteoarthritis (OA), a progressive disease that affects the joints, specifically the cartilage material in the joints. The cartilage breaks down, causing bones to rub against each other. This in turn, causes pain, stiffness and, eventually, loss of movement. Osteoarthritis is the most common arthritic disease, affecting approximately 27 million Americans.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), which is characterized by the inflammation of the membranes around the joints. Symptoms include stiffness, pain, swelling, warmth in the affected area, and, occasionally, severe joint damage. RA affects 1.3 million people in the U.S.
Juvenile Arthritis (JA), a group of arthritic diseases that affect those 16 years old and younger. These autoimmune and inflammatory conditions usually develop in the joints, but occasionally appear in the skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal tract of children, as well.
Considering that arthritis as a whole includes a number of diseases, there is no one factor that will prevent or limit its occurrence. However, common risk factors, particularly for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, include a combination of genetics, environmental and general health. The following may play a part in the onset and progression of arthritis:
- Body weight
- Repetitive injuries, physical trauma or overuse
- Family history
- Muscle tone
- Physical activity
Prevention and Management of Arthritis
Although it may be impossible to completely prevent arthritis in some individuals, you can delay its onset and minimize its effect by being proactive in your health:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds add extra stress on joints, muscles and bones.
- Eat a balanced and diet. Avoid foods that are rich in salt, salt and saturated fat. Eat lots of whole grain, fruits and vegetables.
- Regularly engage in physical activity. Especially important are stretching and weight-bearing exercises for building muscle strength.
- Avoid repetitive joint motion. Wear supportive gear like wrist or knee braces if your work requires you to engage in repetitive motions.
- Wear protective equipment when engaging in sports and other strenuous activities.
- Get a regular exam, particularly if you have a family history of arthritis. Early diagnosis will help you better manage the disease and slow its progress over time.
Arthritis is a serious health problem that is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Every year, many people limit their activity in some way because of it. While there are treatments available to provide relief, the best news is that you can do something to prevent arthritis from having a huge impact in the way you live your life.