Hidden Pain: Arthritis Awareness Month

Did you know that May is not only the month of flowers and sunshine but also the month to raise awareness about arthritis and celebrate women’s health?

May is recognized as Arthritis Awareness Month and contains National Women’s Health Week.

It’s a great opportunity to educate  ourselves and our loved ones about these important health topics. Over 100 types of arthritis affect people of all ages, races, and genders. Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States and is more prevalent among women. Some of the symptoms of arthritis may include swelling and stiffness around the joints, making it difficult to walk or partake in various physical activities. Two of the most common forms of arthritis include Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is considered a chronic disease of the joints, such as the knees, hip, and spine, and the result is a loss of cushioning cartilage around the bones. More than 53 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, out of which 62% are women. According to research, menopause may trigger the onset of osteoarthritis. On the other hand, approximately 1.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation in the lining of the joints and can also have an impact on the heart or lungs. It is worth noting that women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with this condition than men.

While the causes of arthritis vary, medical experts have identified that osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the joints over time due to overuse.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease caused by the body’s immune system attacking the body’s tissues. Arthritis can be diagnosed through physical examination and extensive blood tests that analyze red and white blood cells. Additional tests and blood work can also be conducted within the body to determine the severity of the disease.

Once diagnosed, the doctor can recommend a treatment plan that may include short-term or long-term relief medication.

Arthritis can potentially have long-term side effects that can result in disability. Unfortunately, doctors have indicated that there is no cure. It is possible to manage the symptoms of the disease through a lifestyle change. For instance, incorporating low-impact exercises like swimming and aerobics can help reduce joint damage. Additionally, losing weight can be beneficial, as carrying excess weight can worsen joint damage. It is also essential to follow a healthy meal plan and avoid sugary and alcoholic beverages.

Various famous people like Lucille Ball, Terry Bradshaw, Tatum O’Neal, Paula Abdul, and Kathleen Turner have all struggled with living with rheumatoid arthritis, and some have used their celebrity status to raise awareness about the condition.

Here are some recommended healthy activities that you may find beneficial:

  • Gardening
  • Water Aerobics
  • Light Gardening
  • Deep Breathing
  • Relaxation
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a positive attitude

For more information on arthritis, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. If you believe you have symptoms, schedule an appointment with your physician.