A large increase in the number of Americans with arthritis may be due to the country’s rise in obesity. Arthritis is already the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 21 million adults. Now a new study shows the number of cases is rising dramatically and arthritis represents a major public health problem. Patient advocacy groups, clinicians who treat arthritis and government agencies are calling for a stronger effort to increase awareness about arthritis and provision of programs to improve the quality of life for people with this condition.
The word arthritis means joint inflammation and the term is used to describe more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues which surround a joint and other connective tissue. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly.
The Centers for Disease Control study reports that 50 million U.S. adults had arthritis in 2007-2009, an increase from 46 million in 2003-2005. The study also reports more than 21 million people (42% of adults with arthritis) reported having activity limitations due to their arthritis.
Obesity is of critical concern: one in three obese adults report having arthritis. Obesity is associated with incident knee osteoarthritis (OA), disease progression, disability, total joint replacement and poor clinical outcomes after joint replacement. The report says obesity likely has a critical role in the rise in the numbers of people with arthritis in the U. S.
Another key concern is the aging of the American population. “With the aging population and continued high prevalence of obesity,” arthritis is predicted to increase significantly over the next 20 years, the report says. It’s expected that the number of adults with arthritis will hit 51.9 million in 2010 and 67 million by 2030.
Early diagnosis and appropriate management of arthritis, including self-management activities, can help people with arthritis decrease pain, improve function, stay productive, and lower health care costs. The Centers for Disease Control advises patients to adopt the following activities: