8 Surprising Facts about Arthritis

8 Surprising Facts about Arthritis

8 Surprising Facts about Arthritis

Surely you’ve heard of it, but do you know exactly what arthritis is?

Here are some interesting facts about arthritis that everyone needs to know.

1. There are over 100 types of arthritis
Despite popular belief, arthritis isn’t just one disease. It is a broad term that refers to more than 100 conditions that affect the joints (the place where bones connect). The most common types are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA) – when the tissue that protects the ends of bones breaks down
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joints

The end results for both OA and RA are the same for the most part – stiff and painful joints.

young arthritis2. Arthritis isn’t just for “older” people
People of all ages have arthritis. In fact, children as young as one can get arthritis and about 60% of people who have arthritis are under 65! That being said, the chance of getting arthritis does grow as you get older.

3. Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the U.S.
According to the Arthritis Foundation over 50 million people in the U.S. have arthritis. And nearly half of those say that normal physical activity is hard for them. The number of people with arthritis is expected to keep growing. By 2030, about 67 million people are expected to have arthritis!

4. Arthritis affects more women than men
Arthritis is more common in women than in men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 60% of the people with arthritis are women. With some types of arthritis, such as RA, the symptoms may even be worse for women. Doctors and researchers aren’t exactly sure why this is, but it could have something do with hormones.

5. Exercise is the best way (aside from medication) to reduce pain and improve movement for people with OA
Many people believe that working out with arthritis will do more harm than good. The opposite is actually true. The Arthritis Foundation says that exercise the best non-drug treatment for people with OA to reduce pain and improve movement. Exercises recommended by the Arthritis Foundation for people with OA include:

  • Walking/jogging
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical
  • Water exercises
  • Stretching

6. Cracking your knuckles doesn’t cause arthritis
Growing up, you were likely told not to crack/pop your knuckles or other joints because you will get arthritis. Turns out it’s just an old wives’ tale! Knuckle cracking is not harmful to your joints and does not cause arthritis.

7. Gout is a type of arthritis
What do you think of when you hear the word gout? For many people, the word makes them think of old, overweight kings who overindulged in food and ale. While lifestyle can play a role in the development of gout, this type of inflammatory arthritis is also linked to risk factors such as family history, other health problems and recent surgeries or traumas. Gout occurs when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood – leading to painful swelling in the feet, ankles or knees.

8. You can lower your chance of getting arthritis
There are no sure-fire ways to prevent arthritis. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk or put-off the onset of it:

  • Don’t have too much sugar and alcohol
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid sports injuries by wearing proper equipment and training
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke

Do you know of any other interesting factoids about arthritis? Share them in the comments below!

Updated: 10/15/2017

  • I think of rheumatoid arthritis as an autoimmune disease (autoimmune arthritis) that affects more than joints (causes more systemic inflammation — it can attack internal organs too in the worst cases). It's pretty different from osteoarthritis and can leave one feeling fatigued with nearly constant 'flu-like symptoms, especially during flares. It's also associated with heart disease due to inflammation, IIRC. It can be hard to diagnose. Also:

    • The ratio of women to men with rheumatoid arthritis is 3:1

    • RA symptoms can improve during pregnancy but revert post-pregnancy

    • Lyme disease was thought to be juvenile RA until it became clear it was unlikely so many children would suddenly develop a relatively rare condition like juvenile RA

    • Even "light smoking" is associated with an elevated risk of developing RA — another reason to quit for those who smoke

    • Late-stage RA can result in several deformities, including ulnar drift and swan neck deformity, that aren't typical of osteoarthritis

    • Famous people with RA have included: Glenn Frey, Christiaan Barnard, Renoir, Kathleen Turner, James Coburn, etc.