Health Beat: Arthritis myths

Arthritis is a group of conditions involving damage to the joints of the body. There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis. The most common form is osteoarthritis, a result of trauma to the joint, infection of the joint or age.

Other arthritis forms are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and autoimmune disease. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States. More than 20 million people with arthritis have severe limitations that affect their function on a daily basis.

Each year, arthritis results in nearly 1,000,000 hospitalizations and close to 45,000,000 outpatient visits to health care centers. Causes of arthritis include injury metabolic abnormalities, hereditary factors, the direct and indirect effect of infections and a misdirected immune system with autoimmunity.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, symptoms of arthritis include pain, limited function of joints, inflammation of the joints, swelling, redness and warmth.

Many medications promise miracle cures, but doctors say a quick fix with unproven pills, devices and minimally invasive surgery may be a waste of money if you have an advanced form of arthritis.

The best option is joint replacement surgery. When joint replacement surgery occurs, the artificial surfaces of the joint replacement are shaped in such a way as to allow joint movement similar to that of a healthy natural joint.

Some forms of arthritis do mainly affect elderly people, including the most common, osteoarthritis. Yet many types can affect younger people, and joint injuries at any age can lead to osteoarthritis. Currently more than half of the population with arthritis is under 65.

Many people with arthritis believe that cold and dampness can set off joint symptoms. According to the Arthritis Foundation, nearly half of arthritis patients think their flare up happens when they have to take their sweaters out of the closet.

Regular moderate exercise can help prevent and treat arthritis. Exercise promotes function and mobility, controls weight and strengthens the muscles that support the joints. Though you may want to avoid high-impact exercises if your knees bother you, low-impact exercises such as walking, tai chi or aquatics are all beneficial.

Talk to your physician about the best exercise regimen for you. Pool therapy has been shown to cause improvement in mobility in arthritic joints.

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