Welcome to a very special week here on Kate the (Almost) Great! Next Sunday, October 12, is World Arthritis Day. It is a day devoted to raising awareness and demonstrating support for the millions of people around the world who suffer from a form of arthritis. Therefore, I want to spend this week on the importance and impact of this day.
World Arthritis Day: What It Is
There are millions of people all across the world who live with arthritis and its related disease and conditions. October 12 is a day where these people and the people who know and love them can come together to be heard. This day is also for the various organizations to come together to raise awareness of the disease(s) and their effects.
Who has it? 1 in 5 adults and over 300,000 children.
What is the cure? There isn’t one
Isn’t arthritis just something you get when you get older? Nope! Arthritis is a large number of musculoskeletal diseases and conditions. There are over 100 different diseases and conditions. And it doesn’t discriminate – anyone of any age can get it. Two thirds of people with arthritis are under 65 and, again, over 300,000 children have it.
Over 100 disease and conditions?! Yup! The most common form is osteoarthritis. That’s the one usually associated with older people since it has to do with the breakdown of the joint cartilage. But you don’t have to be older to get it. Risk factors like being overweight and a history of joint injury go along with that, too. (So think of athletes who get arthritis.)
Rheumatoid arthritis is also a very common (this is the type that I have). This deals with inflammation of the lining of the joint. The immune system basically gets messed up and thinks that the membranes of the joint are bad, so it attacks them. That’s why we call it and other similar forms autoimmune arthritis. When the immune system does this, it causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling, and sometimes joint damage. I’ll talk more about this tomorrow, but this is what has caused my cartilage damage requiring surgery.
Juvenile arthritis is the term used to talk about the autoimmune and inflammatory conditions in children age 16 and under.
Other types of disease and conditions associated with arthritis: ankylosing spondylitis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, fibromyalgia, gout, lyme disease, lupus, and psoriatic arthritis.
So that’s just a lot of pain, right? You should just suck it up and be quiet. First of all, rude. (By the way, I have gotten that response before.) Second, you are so very, very wrong. Did you know that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US? Or that it causes over 44 million outpatient visits and over 990,000 hospitalizations every year? Arthritis causes more limitations that heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.
What can be done for people with arthritis? There are many medications that allow people with arthritis to live normal lives. These range from pills to injections to infusions. One of the most common medications for arthritis is methotrexate – a form of chemotherapy. Arthritis patients are also regularly prescribed forms of steroids. The treatment that I am on is another form of chemotherapy – Rituxan.
There are also other ways to manage arthritis pain. Other than medications, there are lifestyle changes. Changing diet, practicing yoga, staying active to a degree … these can all make the lives of people with arthritis better.
But, like I said, there is no cure.
What can I do to help? I will go into much more detail about this on Friday, but I will say that I big thing you can do is make sure you are knowledgeable and know the truth. Correct (kindly) people who share the incorrect information. When you come across someone who has arthritis or a related condition, keep this information in mind. Your friend may need to cancel plans last minute because they aren’t feeling well. Your colleague may need to sit or stand during a meeting or seem constantly tired. You may need to make accommodations for your student who misses class regularly or struggles to learn during class because they are in so much pain.
I finished my college degree in 4 years with a good GPA because of professors who allowed me to turn in papers late, complete independent studies, miss class more than regularly allowed without losing credit, etc. Just understanding this information, sharing it, and allowing it to make you better understand someone’s struggle will make an incredible difference in the lives of someone living with arthritis.
Thanks for joining and I hope you return back for the rest of Arthritis Week! And even if you don’t – wear blue on October 12 to help raise awareness!