Today is World Arthritis Day, so I want to take today to explain what you need to know about arthritis. If you’ve been around here for a while or follow me on social media, you know that I have seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve been in pain since fall 2001, meaning I am entering my 17th year on constant pain. Arthritis dominates my life, and the lives of many people around the world.
This post has the basic things you need to know about arthritis as well as things that you can do today and every day to help people with arthritis. I’ve also provided links to the sites where my information comes from, and you can learn more about those specific topics there.
What You Need To Know about Arthritis
It affects a lot of people – There are an estimated 54.4 million Americans with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, which is more than 1 in 4 (x). I phrase it that way because there are so many out there who haven’t been diagnosed yet.
Kids get it too – That number includes over 300,000 kids (x). And that number is probably low; I would love to know the statistics on who is diagnosed at age 18 or 19 because most people have had symptoms for a while, if not years (like me; see above posts), so how many are diagnosed when they’re an adult but began having symptoms when they were a kid?
Arthritis is an umbrella term for a wide variety of illnesses – There are over 100 different conditions and illnesses that fall under the term “arthritis” (x). This includes Still’s disease, juvenile arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis (which is what most people think of when they think of arthritis) (x).
Many people (like myself) have autoimmune arthritis – This means their arthritis is an autoimmune disease; the immune system attacks the joints and sometimes the organs (x). To deal with this, we take immunosuppressant medications because the immune system is the problem.
Here are the famous people with forms of arthritis – Selena Gomez, who has lupus; Zach Kornfeld from Buzzfeed, who has anklyosing spondilitis, Phil Mickelson, psoriatic arthritis; Terry Bradshaw, rheumatoid arthritis; Emily Gordon, Still’s disease (who The Big Sick is based on); Matt Iseman, rheumatoid arthritis; Glenn Frey, rheumatoid arthritis (which led to his death); Venus Williams: Sjorgren’s Syndrome; and more!Did you know? Arthritis affects more than 1 in 4 Americans. #WorldArthritisDay Click To Tweet
It’s a chronic condition – This means that it goes on forever. You always have it. (x)
It’s the leading cause of disability in America – Arthritis limits your energy and provides you constant pain (so kind of it *eye roll*). Many people can’t work full-time or at all (x).
It’s the 2nd leading cause of honorable discharge from the US army (behind combat injury) – This is generally osteoarthritis, and a cohort of Army doctors who examined 450 soldiers found unfit for continued service found that 25% of them had traumatic arthritis (x). In this study, there were 292 injuries among all of the soldiers involving bones and joints, and half of those were discharged because of osteoarthritis.
Medications can be really intense – One of the most common treatments for arthritis is called methotrexate, and it’s a low-dose form of chemo with all of the side effects (x). After taking it, you basically have a hangover without being allowed to drink. You also have to get blood work monthly to check your blood counts and your kidney and liver function, since methotrexate can screw with that (x). I’ve been on another form of chemo since 2012 and while it’s amazing, it knocks me out for pretty much 5 days, which is why every 4 months you get a week’s worth of guest posts. Other medications have a variety of side effects, but we really don’t have much of a choice unless we want permanent joint damage, debilitating pain, and possible organ damage.Did you know that some forms of arthritis are autoimmune diseases? #WorldArthritisDay Click To Tweet
A lot of people (like myself) change their diet, but that doesn’t take care of all of it – For some people, changing their diet can really help, at the very least because they can get rid of some triggers. It turns out that when I eat gluten, dairy, corn, soy, or egg, my immune system rears up and I have a massive spike in joint pain. That doesn’t mean (for me) that it makes a huge difference for my pain in general; it just means that I can avoid some triggers. For other people, avoiding the foods that their body responds to really helps their pain. Additionally, you can eat foods that have a history of reducing inflammation and avoid foods that have a history of creating it. But you really need to know that this will not cure arthritis or other autoimmune diseases. You can read more about the autoimmune protocol here, which is a process of removing foods that might be irritants and then adding them back to test your reaction to them.
Arthritis can affect your organs and can become deadly – Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause problems with the lungs, heart, eyes, kidneys, and more (x). And this is just one condition. If you saw The Big Sick, you saw an arthritis patient dealing with organ problems; Still’s Disease is a form of arthritis (x).
There’s no cure – No matter what random people online might tell you, there’s no cure for arthritis (x). The closest is remission, which is low disease activity. Anyone who tells you that someone’s arthritis has been cured is either lying or has confused remission with permanently cured.Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US #WorldArthritisDay Click To Tweet
So what can you do to help?
Ask members of Congress to keep protections for people with pre-existing conditions and to keep the prohibition annual and lifetime caps – Two of the amazing things that the ACA includes is it makes it illegal to deny someone coverage because they have a pre-existing conditions, such as arthritis, and it also requires insurance companies can’t provide annual and lifetime caps of how much money they will pay for your coverage. We need both of these things because arthritis is a chronic condition and we need insurance to pay for our treatments to help keep the disease from getting significantly worse. You can learn more about how to contact your senators and representatives here and here.
Donate to ANRF and AF (or boost their posts if you can’t donate) – The Arthritis National Research Foundation focuses almost entirely on research; 91 cent of very dollar donated goes directly to research. The Arthritis Foundation focuses on research but also awareness and legislation. If you can’t donate, follow them on social media and share their posts.
Share what you’ve learned – Share the facts about arthritis (tweet the items in this post!). Talk to someone in your life about things you’ve learned in this post. For example, “Did you know that there are over 100 types of arthritis?” Or “I can’t believe that the leading cause of disability in the US is arthritis!”What You Need To Know about Arthritis Click To Tweet
Do you have any questions about arthritis? I’ll do my best to answer them!
Like this post? Check out:
8 Things a Millennial with Arthritis Wants You To Know, 4 More Things a Millennial with Arthritis Wants You To Know, The Complications of Arthritis, What It’s Like To Live in Pain for 15 Years, So Someone You Know Was Diagnosed with Inflammatory Arthritis
Note: please do not comment with your “miracle supplement” or saying that I just need to be more positive or whatever. I am not asking for your medical advice (and all of that is super unhelpful and kind of rude). I am sharing facts about a very serious disease, not looking for unsolicited advice.