7 Things You Didn’t Know About Arthritis

Most people understand that arthritis has to do with swollen and painful joints. But beyond that, there are a lot of misconceptions about the condition. Television commercials would have you believe that only the elderly experience arthritis, and that a miracle pill can get them back out on the tennis court or playing on the beach with their grandkids.

In reality, arthritis is an incurable, progressive disease that can eventually steal a person’s ability to care for themselves.

There is a lot that can be done to manage the disease and slow its progression, but it is more than just a minor nuisance that will have you rubbing your wrists with a rueful expression.

And not only that but there are actually a staggering number of forms of arthritis, many that you may not have realized qualify. Chronic fatigue syndrome, Fifth disease, Lyme disease, and spinal stenosis are just a few examples. Stick with us to bust 7 common myths about arthritis

1. Anyone Can Have Arthritis

Age can be a factor in arthritis, but it’s not true that it only affects the elderly. In fact, almost 300,000 babies and children have been diagnosed with arthritis or a rheumatic condition. And approximately 2/3 of adult arthritis patients in the U.S. are of working age, between 18-64 years old.

Arthritis also hits the genders differently. Official diagnoses are more common in women (26% of total cases) than in men (18% of total cases). Women also experience rheumatoid arthritis in much higher numbers than men do. On the other hand, men tend to experience gout and ankylosing spondylitis more often.

When it comes to the elderly, the most common type is osteoarthritis.

2. There Are Over 100 Different Forms Of Arthritis

As you may have guessed from point #1, despite being grouped under the single heading of “arthritis”, there are many different types of the disease. In fact, there are literally hundreds of kinds. The three most common forms are rheumatoid, osteoarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.

Other fairly common types include gout, in which sharp uric acid crystals form in the joints, and fibromyalgia, which causes chronic pain anywhere in the body, fatigue, memory problems, and mood swings. Even lupus, carpal tunnel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease may be considered forms of arthritis because they cause chronic inflammation.

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis Is An Autoimmune Disease

It’s easy to think of joint pain and swelling as something that occurs due to stress on the area. That assumption has led to the linking of obesity and arthritis, and also plays into the assumption that it is something that happens mostly to older people who have been using their joints the longest. But rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most common types, is actually an autoimmune disease.

This means that the body’s immune system wrongly believes that its own joint tissue is diseased and must be attacked. The cells within the joint capsules are then bombarded constantly and the cartilage, bone, and ligaments become deformed. Untreated, not only will the sufferer lose mobility, but he or she may also experience systemic damage to their organs.

4. There Is No Cure For Arthritis

Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for almost all types of arthritis. There are, however, various treatment regimens that can slow the progression of the disease and minimize the associated pain and loss of mobility. Therefore, early detection is critical.

Your doctor may talk to you about an anti-inflammatory diet, medication, exercise, and coping techniques. The prognosis for each different type of arthritis varies, but you can still have a good quality of life with proper management.

5. There Is (Sometimes) A Dietary Link To Arthritis

Traditionally it has been assumed that there is no direct dietary link to the development of arthritis. And indeed, a healthy diet will not protect you if you have the genetic markers for the disease. Nor can diet overcome the influence of repetitive stress or wear-and-tear forms of arthritis. A proper diet can help you manage arthritis, though, because a healthy weight puts less stress on the joints and many foods have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

However, there is a confirmed link between diet and gout. Once considered a disease of royalty because only they could afford to eat rich and greasy food to excess, gout now strikes poorer people disproportionately because low-quality packaged foods are cheaper than fresh organic produce and meats. Additionally, new research into rheumatoid arthritis indicates that a healthy gut biome may help prevent it.

6. Arthritis Is More Than Aches And Pains

There are lots of television commercials for OTC or prescription medications that suggest they can eliminate the minor aches and pains of arthritis entirely. But that’s a misleading take on the disease. Aches and pains are part of it for sure, but they may not always be minor. The pain can be debilitating at times.

Because arthritis is a progressive disease, as time goes on, sufferers tend to experience loss of mobility, limited range of motion, joint deformity, internal joint damage, and chronic fatigue. Popping an aspirin doesn’t fix arthritis. If you have a loved one with the disease, try to be understanding and sympathetic to their struggle.

7. Arthritis Often Occurs In Conjunction With Other Diseases

Arthritis is not always a standalone disease. In fact, it often occurs in conjunction with other conditions. For example, 49% of people with diagnosed heart disease also have arthritis. The same is true for 47% of people with diabetes and 31% of people who are obese.

Arthritis is actually the leading cause of disability for adults in the United States, but it may be just part of the overall health struggle they face. The economic cost of arthritis is also staggering: it and other non-traumatic joint disorders fall within the five most costly medical conditions among adults.


Recent estimates put the worldwide diagnoses of arthritis at about 350 million people of all ages. Given the hundreds of types of arthritis and the huge number of sufferers, it is time that the disease was better understood and described in the media.

A healthy weight, balanced diet, and routine exercise can reduce your risk, but arthritis can strike anyone at any time. An arthritis diagnosis represents a life sentence, so it’s a big deal. The more we come to understand this pernicious disease, the more research will go toward a cure, and the more compassion we can show our loved ones who struggle with it.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Arthritis

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