Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.
Community Education Assistant
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 54 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of arthritis, affecting 26% of women and 19.1% of men. Due to its wearing effects, about half of those with arthritis are limited in their abilities to perform everyday tasks.
What is Arthritis?
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases defines arthritis as joint inflammation. However, the term “arthritis” can be used to classify any disorder that affects the joints. A joint occurs where two bones meet, such as your ankle, knee or elbow.
There are many different kinds of arthritis but the most common forms include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis.
Causes of Arthritis
The cause of arthritis depends on the type of arthritis a person is diagnosed with. Some arthritic conditions, like osteoarthritis, are caused by everyday wear and tear on the body while others, like rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by a flaw in the body’s immune system.
Research shows that certain genes can also increase the risk for developing arthritis. If you have a gene connected to arthritis, often times something in your environment will trigger the onset of the condition. Environmental triggers may include a virus, a stressful situation or an injury.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Common symptoms of arthritis include:
- Pain, redness, heat or swelling in your joints
- Difficulty moving around
- Weight loss
- Trouble breathing
- Rash or itch
Many of the symptoms of arthritis can also be symptoms of other conditions. If you experience any of the above symptoms, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider.
Living with Arthritis
Arthritis is a chronic condition, meaning it is long-term and cannot be cured. If you are diagnosed with arthritis, there are many things you can do to help manage your symptoms including:
- Educating yourself: Learn more about your condition and the steps you can take to be a good self–manager. HealthLink Littauer offers two evidenced-based programs that will help you learn the tools to better manage your arthritis including the Chronic Disease Self–Management Program and the Pain Self–Management Program. These cover everything from nutrition and physical activity to stress management and problem solving.
- Taking medications as prescribed: Taking medications exactly as they are prescribed can help prevent complications and promote effectiveness.
- Exercising: Exercise can help reduce joint pain and stiffness.
- Using heat and cold therapy: Use of heat or cold therapies can reduce joint pain and swelling.
- Practicing relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques may help relax your muscles and reduce pain.
- Utilizing splints, braces or other assistive devices: Splints and braces aid in supporting your joints while assistive devices can help you perform everyday tasks like putting on shoes or opening a jar.
Remember to speak with your healthcare provider about treatment plans and options. They can give you the best plan of action to manage your condition.
For more information, contact your healthcare provider or HealthLink Littauer. If you are interested in attending a Chronic Disease Self–Management or Pain Self–Management Program, call us at 518-736-1120. You can email us at email@example.com or visit our wellness center on 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.