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Arthritis Prevention and Care Tips

Arthritis Prevention and Care Tips

Swollen, stiff and painful joints are common symptoms of arthritis, or joint disease.

There over 100 types of arthritis and related conditions that also can affect connective tissues and organs, including the eyes, heart, lungs and skin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 54.4 million American adults, or about one in four, have arthritis, and that by 2040, an estimated 78 million U.S. adults age 18 and older will have arthritis — a leading cause of work disability in the country. Anyone of any age can get arthritis — the Arthritis Foundation says that about 300,000 babies and children have arthritis or a rheumatic condition — but the joint disease becomes more common with age. The CDC states that from 2013 to 2015, almost half of people age 65 and older in the U.S. reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis, and 26 percent of women and 19 percent of men in America reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

Common Types of Arthritis and Risk Factors

Arthritis symptoms can come and go, or be steadily persistent with varying degrees of pain severity. Common types of arthritis include:

  • Osteoarthritis. The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage, the protective connective tissue on the ends of bones, thins and deteriorates, causing friction in joint movement.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when a person’s immune system attacks the body’s healthy tissues, eroding the lining of joints (synovium) and triggering painful inflammation.
  • Psoriatic arthritis. A type of inflammatory arthritis, psoriatic arthritis is typically associated with psoriasis, a skin disease that presents with a red, scaly rash. People with psoriatic arthritis often experience swelling in their hands, knees, ankles and feet, with fingers and toes sometimes swelling to a sausage shape.

Other familiar forms of arthritis include ankylosing spondylitis, mainly affecting the spine; gout, caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint; and lupus, a systemic autoimmune disorder. While the causes of many types of arthritis are unknown, a number of risk factors increase the likelihood of getting arthritis. Age is a factor because the older a person gets, the more wear and tear their joints endure. The increased risk for arthritis is also higher among individuals who have chronic health conditions such as obesity or diabetes.

How to Prevent Arthritis

While some forms of arthritis cannot be prevented, many types can be minimized or slowed by making certain lifestyle changes. Some of the best ways to keep joints healthy and prevent degenerative arthritis include the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid injuries to joints, ligaments and cartilage.
  • Ease up on repetitive movements.
  • Boost and protect your immune system.
  • Do not smoke.

Care Tips for Arthritis

A thorough evaluation, early diagnosis and on-target treatment from a rheumatologist (an arthritis doctor) will help lessen joint changes and chronic pain. In treating and managing arthritis, a central goal is to reduce symptoms and improve a person’s mobility and function. For mild to moderate arthritis symptoms, the doctor may advise a combination of the following at-home care tips:

  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicines.
  • Taking prescription corticosteroids or anti-rheumatic drugs.
  • Applying heat and cold therapies to soothe pain.
  • Staying active, yet getting sufficient rest.
  • Strengthening the muscles around the affected joint.
  • Allowing the joint to rest and protecting it from overuse or strain.
  • Eating a nutritious diet to maintain a healthy weight, and boosting the body with anti-inflammatory foods such as green, leafy vegetables and fatty fish.

An arthritis diagnosis can be a lot to handle, especially for older adults and adults with disabilities. To help, a strong support system of family, friends and professional at-home caregivers proves invaluable. For additional information about arthritis, living with arthritis, and rheumatologists in your area, contact the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org or call the toll-free helpline, 1-844-571-HELP (4357).

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