Many people automatically associate arthritis with older adults. However, both children and adults can get arthritis. This disease can have a large negative impact on everyday life, causing significant pain and distraction from work and school. Learn more about arthritis, who gets it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is not one single disease, but an umbrella term for a group of diseases affecting the joints. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have arthritis, and it’s a leading cause for disability. Some types of arthritis include the following:
- Osteoarthritis is sometimes called degenerative arthritis and is especially common in people over 65. Osteoarthritis is caused when the cartilage – a rubbery material that covers bones – degenerates, leading to friction and pain. Unfortunately, many cases of osteoarthritis go undiagnosed when older adults assume joint pain is just a normal part of aging.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease when the body’s own immune system attacks the joints. It causes the synovium (a lining between joints) to swell, which results in pain. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the cardiovascular and respiratory system.
- Juvenile arthritis is an umbrella term for arthritic diseases that develop in children and young adults before age 16. Types of juvenile arthritis include juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), Kawasaki disease, and juvenile lupus. No one is certain what causes juvenile arthritis, although it is speculated that some children are genetically predisposed.
- Gout is an inflammatory arthritic disease that results from excessively high uric acid levels. It is more likely to affect men than women, and often begins when the patient experiences severe pain and swelling in the big toe. For sufferers of gout, eating a healthy diet and weight management are key habits to maintain.
Arthritis in Children
For most of us, childhood is an active time of exploration and play. However, for children who suffer from arthritis, simple things in life may be harder to enjoy. Besides missing out on activities with their peers, children with arthritis can face a lifelong range of problems. For example, their bones may weaken faster than healthy individuals, making them more at risk for osteoporosis, or even developing osteoporosis at an unusually younger age.
Another serious complication is uveitis, where inflammation reaches the eye. Without immediate medical intervention, this can result in blindness. Symptoms may be hard to spot or even invisible, so parents are encouraged to take their children to regular eye exams.
If you have joint pain, it’s a smart idea to pay attention rather than chalk it up to run-of-the-mill aging pains. When diagnosed and treated early, arthritis can be effectively managed, preventing damage to your other organs as well.
Only a doctor can diagnose arthritis. However, if you notice the following signs, it may be time to visit one:
- Difficulty moving around and doing day-to-day activities
- Pain, swelling, stiffness, and warmth in the joints
- Pain in joints that last for three days or more, or multiple episodes of pain within a month
- Children may be in pain when they wake up in the morning or after a nap
- Juvenile arthritis can cause serious damage to the eyes, so persistent eye pain, eye redness, and blurry vision is a red flag
There is no cure for arthritis, but there are numerous things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medication, such as analgesics, corticosteroids, and NSAIDs – these classes of drugs that have been used to treat arthritis. Since arthritis is chronic disease, many people may find it difficult to afford medication. If that seems relevant to you, you can buy a 90-day personal supply of cheaper, more affordable medication online from a Canadian pharmacy referral service like Rx Connected. Canadian pharmacies and other countries abroad sometimes have stricter government control over their drug prices, making prices considerably lower.
Otherwise, exercise and a healthy diet are drug-free ways to treat arthritis. Overweight people may benefit from shedding weight because this will reduce pressure on your joints. Some foods are thought to reduce inflammation. Meanwhile, some types of fats and oils and eating excessive salt can exacerbate symptoms. Alcohol has a more complex relationship with arthritis; it can fight inflammation in small doses, but it can also interact harmfully with common arthritis drugs. People with gout should not consume purine-rich foods, of which is beer, wine, and distilled liquor are some.
Genetic risk factors, like a family history of arthritis or being female, are unavoidable. There’s no one way to prevent arthritis for good, it is possible to lower your risk or delay onset. For example, maintain a healthy weight to prevent osteoarthritis, abstain from smoking to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, and eat healthy to prevent gout. Proper safety precautions when engaging in intense sports can also reduce injury and help prevent arthritis.
Arthritis is a painful group of diseases that anyone, old or young, can fall victim to. That’s why it’s more important than ever to maintain a healthy lifestyle; things you already should be doing – eating well, exercising, adequate rest – should benefit your overall health and help protect you from inflammation.