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May 12, 2014

Arthritis Awareness Month

According to research, more than 50 million adults and 300,000 in the U.S. have arthritis, placing them at risk for chronic pain and disability.  Arthritis is, in fact, the number one cause of disability in the U.S. and it impacts the daily activities more frequently than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. 

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis causes pain and stiffness in the joints and surrounding tissue. It occurs most frequently in the knees, hips, hands and spine. While the normal wear-and-tear of aging is linked to osteoarthritis, other risk factors include having a history of joint injuries and being overweight. 

One of the most serious forms the disease is rheumatoid arthritis. This disease causes the body's immune system to attack the thin membranes that line the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint pain and inflammation that can be systemic, which means it affects the entire body. Extreme fatigue and, over time, organ damage and immobility can result. Scientists believe both environmental and genetic factors may play a role in rheumatoid arthritis. The disease typically develops between the ages of 30 to 60, and affects women three times as often as it does men.

When arthritis develops in children 16 and younger, it's called juvenile arthritis—an umbrella term for the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that young patients suffer. The most common form is juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which is diagnosed when children or adolescents have swelling in one or more joints for at least six weeks. 

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, sponsored by the nonprofit Arthritis Foundation. Activities are planned to raise awareness of arthritic conditions and encourage support for more research to develop better treatments and prevention measures. To learn more visit www.arthritis.org.