Arthritis can affect a person’s ability to continue living independently.
“You need your joints to do anything around self care,” said Dr. Patience H. White, MD, MA, a medical expert for the Arthritis Foundation and a professor of medicine and pediatrics at George Washington University. “Arthritis pain makes it harder to dress, brush teeth, comb hair, cook in the kitchen, hard to do any daily living things.”
May is Arthritis Awareness Month and a time to learn more about how this disease impacts people of all ages and their caregivers.
“Aside from joint pain, people experience a lot of fatigue and they do less of what they would normally do,” said Dr. White. “In general, all types of arthritis affect the joints and cause joint pain which leads to limited mobility and difficulty managing daily activities in any area whether it’s at work, play or home.”
Caregivers Can Help
While caregivers cannot take away the pain caused by arthritis, they can assist someone with the condition.
“Sometimes it’s like being a marriage counselor,” Dr. White said. “The person with arthritis needs to say, ‘My pain is X and I need help,’ so that the caregivers doesn’t feel like they are intruding or guessing.”
Communication is so important, but Dr. White said people are often too proud to admit that they are hurting and ask for help. “A lot of managing pain is thinking about the experience.”
In other words, a caregiver can suggest or provide a distraction as simple as listening to music or going for a walk to help manage the pain. Or the person with arthritis can be proactive and ask their caregiver to make dinner on days when the pain is severe, allowing the caregiver to focus on a task rather than constantly checking on the pain level.
The point of having a month dedicated to awareness of arthritis is to educate the public and inspire people to help raise funds for a cure.
Arthritis affects more than 50 million Americans and two-thirds of those people are under age 65. According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. The three most commons forms of arthritis are:
- Osteoarthritis: The most common form of arthritis and it is a progressive degenerative joint disease.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: “A systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membranes lining the joint, which causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage.”
- Juvenile Arthritis: “An umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.”
Although there is no cure for arthritis yet, there are simple exercise and nutrition tips for alleviating symptoms of the disease.
One of the best forms of exercise for people with arthritis is walking, in part because it can help reduce obesity. The Arthritis Foundation notes this statistic on weight loss benefits:
- “A 2005 study in Arthritis & Rheumatism of overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis found that losing one pound of weight resulted in four pounds of pressure being removed from the knees. In other words, losing just 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from your knees.”
In addition, another study showed that weight loss can lessen the pain and improve function and lower the levels of inflammation in the body.
There is also an “arthritis diet” that has been found to have similar advantages as weight loss—decreasing the pain of arthritis symptoms. The diet is basically a Mediterranean diet: low in processed foods, saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish.
To learn more about arthritis, how you can get involved and raise funds for research for a cure today, go to the Arthritis Foundation website at www.arthritis.org.