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What is Arthritis?

The term "arthritis" simply refers to an inflammation of the joints.  There are now known to be more than 100 types of arthritis.  Five of those account for nine out of ten cases: osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), fibromyalgia, lupus, and gout.   The two most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. 

Arthritis is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Americans.  It accounts for 45 million physician visits per year, 4 million hospital admissions, and 185 million hospital bed days.  In 1992, the direct and indirect costs of arthritis totaled $65 billion or 1% of our nation's gross national product (GNP)!  Of the 40 million Americans currently affected, approximately 6 million say they have arthritis, but have never consulted a physician about it.

If you have arthritis--or think you might have it--the most important thing to do is to consult your physician for a check-up and diagnosis.  Work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan and follow it!

Consistent communication with your physician is very important, especially in your early treatment. Inform your doctor promptly about new symptoms or any medication side effects. 

Learn to manage joint fatigue. Spread out your activities over the course of the day, and listen to the feedback your body gives you.  Rest when necessary, whether you want to or not.

Learn to use joint sparing practices. Ask for help with difficult activities (e.g. opening jars), use tools designed for patients with arthritis, and try to reduce weight bearing.  Most importantly, practice stress management techniques.  Many of the symptoms of arthritis are unpredictable and emotionally draining.  This can be very stressful and can contribute to feeling worse, physically and otherwise.

Created: 8/21/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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