May is National Arthritis Awareness Month
It is estimated that 46 million people have arthritis in the U.S., a number that will probably increase as the population ages. The month of May is a time to become educated about a disease which becomes debilitating for many people.
The word arthritis is generally used to designate conditions that affect the joints and the connective tissues around them, although the term itself actually means joint inflammation. Most people simply say arthritis to refer to the pain and or stiffness in and around their joints. Unfortunately, the causes of a number of the types of arthritis - and there are several - are as of yet unknown. While adjusting your lifestyle with diet and exercise can decrease your chances of getting or advancing arthritis, there are some cases in which the disease is just more likely. These include:
- Older adulthood
- Genetic predisposition
- Joint injuries or infection
A recent study looked specifically at the possible genetic link between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and diabetes. RA is characterized by immune-mediated destruction of the joint architecture. Because of this, it is considered an autoimmune disease. In fact, it is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting one percent of the globe's adults.
The research involved 475 participants with RA, and 475 matched control participants. The scientists tested for 87 genetic variations in certain locations. The findings were that one of the 87 variations is associated with RA. This so called "risk" variation was found in 28 percent of the RA participants and 17 percent of the control participants.
A genetic link to diabetes is suspected because that same "risk" variation is already known to be associated with diabetes. Diabetes is also an autoimmune disease. One suggestion of this outcome is that the existence of the specific "risk" gene variation indicates an increase in the overall reactivity of the immune system. This would mean that the chance for autoimmune disease is also increased.
Although many people might not be able to stop arthritis altogether, a few simple lifestyle changes can ease the resulting discomfort:
- Be active - Three thirty minute sessions of moderate activity a week can help reduce pain and stiffness.
- Watch your weight - Losing as little as 11 pounds can decrease the occurrence of new arthritis in the knees.
- Talk to your doctor - A good relationship with your health care provider can help you cope with your arthritis.
- Protect your joints - If you play sports, or have a job that is physically demanding, take steps to protect your joints from injury.
Even though it is not a life-threatening disease, arthritis can hinder the quality of life for those suffering with the condition. Living in ways that protect your joints now can help you ensure years of comfort and mobility to come!