May is National Arthritis Awareness Month

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month

In May spring is in the air and we are all eager to get back outside. After a long winter, we want to feel the sun as we walk, swim, garden and ride bicycles. May is also national arthritis awareness month.

“Arthritis is the leading cause of physical disability,” says Dr. Ekaterina Soforo, “but it doesn’t just affect older adults. Arthritis can make it hard for many working age adults to stay employed.” In fact, arthritis causes 172 million missed workdays annually. The young are also affected by arthritis with 300,000 children suffering from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr. Soforo says, “It’s important to remember that arthritis comes in different forms. Broadly, there are 2 major groups of arthritis including osteoarthritis (a.k.a. wear and tear arthritis, a.k.a. degenerative arthritis) and inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout).” The most common type in a class of inflammatory arthridities is Rheumatoid arthritis. It is an autoimmune condition. It occurs when the immune system attacks patient’s own joints. What causes these changes in the immune system is not fully known. RA affects both adults and children. Patients with RA have pain, swelling and stiffness in small joints of hands, wrists, and feet as well as larger joints. If this inflammatory process is not recognized and addressed early, it can lead to permanent joint damage, disability and loss of function. Being a systemic disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, can also be associated with problems with internal organs, fatigue, anemia and an increase risk of heart attacks and strokes. Osteoarthritis, also called OA, is associated with mechanical damage to joint cartilage, often to the large weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees. Age, past injuries, overuse and excess body weight are causes of OA. Treatment for OA includes weight management, pain management, physical therapy or, for severe cases, surgery.

If pain in joints and muscles slowing you down, seeing a rheumatologist may be important to recognize the problem and start addressing it to help keep you moving. Treatments differ depending on the cause.

As the sun shines and spring calls us outdoors those with arthritic joint pain know that sometimes moving and exercising are very difficult. With various types of arthritis movement is beneficial as it can reduce pain and stiffness, increase blood flow and keep bone and muscle strength from diminishing. For those with advanced arthritis swimming and pool exercises offer ways to manage pain and keep moving.