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Frequently Asked Questions

Hands suffering from arthritis.

How common is arthritis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 21 million adults.

Based on 2010-2012 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) (1), an estimated:

  • 52.5 million (22.7%) of adults have self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
  • 22.7 million (9.8%) of all adults have arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation.

Based on 2003 NHIS data (2) a projected:

  • 67 million (25%) adults aged 18 years or older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2030.
  • An estimated 25 million (37%)  of those with arthritis will report arthritis-attributable activity limitations by the year 2030.

To learn more, visit the CDC's web site.

What is osteoarthritis?

This type of arthritis is a disease that primarily affects the cartilage. Cartilage is the cushioning material located inside the joint. When the cartilage surface is damaged and irregular, then the joint surface has uneven forces, resulting in further damage, cartilage loss and joint pain. Studies have shown that several factors predict the development of knee osteoarthritis. These include heredity, weight and prior injuries to the joints.
Read more about osteoarthritis.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

This type of arthritis primarily affects the synovial lining of the joint. The cells of the lining proliferate and the entire lining becomes thickened and inflamed. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can also affect other organs such as the lining around the lungs.
Read more about rheumatoid arthritis.

Is exercise harmful in osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis?

There is no evidence that sensible exercise such as walking and swimming can cause arthritis to worsen. In fact, muscle strengthening is clearly beneficial. Exercise may also be beneficial by increasing the blood flow to the joint and promoting healing. Endorphins that are released during exercise may help alleviate pain.

What is a rheumatologist?

A rheumatologist is usually board certified in both internal medicine and rheumatology. After medical school, training is a minimum of three years in internal medicine, followed by two more years focusing on the rheumatic diseases. The rheumatic diseases consist of a group of related disorders, including at least 100 causes of joint pain. Rheumatologists also specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. Rheumatologists do not perform operations, but they inject joints with medications and remove fluid from joints for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes.

What is systemic lupus erythematosus?

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an inflammatory connective tissue disease of unknown cause that occurs chiefly in women and that is characterized especially by fever, skin rash, and arthritis, often by acute hemolytic anemia, small hemorrhages in the skin and mucous membranes, inflammation of the pericardium and, in serious cases, by involvement of the kidneys and central nervous system — also called systemic lupus.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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