Take a guess as to what the leading cause of disability in America is? Go ahead. We can wait. The title of this post is a clue, of course. But if someone stopped you on the street and asked, what would you answer? Heart problems and cancer are certainly up there as reasons to miss work, along with diabetes. But the actual answer is arthritis. 54 million people in the United States have some form of the disease. Are you one of them? Do you have arthritis?
Obvious symptoms include joint pain, of course, but just because you have joint pain doesn’t mean that you have arthritis. There are a lot of causes possible, with arthritis being just one of the possible reasons. Range of motion in your limbs can also be a sign of arthritis. Visually, you might even notice a redness of color on your skin around the joint areas. In the specific case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, you might experience a lack of appetite and may start running a fever.
There are, however, different types of arthritis, of which RA is a part of one. Four categories, to be exact:
This is the most common type. It’s when the cartilage (the cushion between bones where they meet each other) starts wearing away. It mostly happens over time, which is why cases rarely appear in younger people. The good news is that it IS preventable. Weight is a big factor. It’s important to not get too heavy and maintain a healthy weight. Staying active also helps, which is great because that will help you not put on the pounds too. But while exercise is good, balance it with proper rest is essential. Finally, avoid repetitive motions as much as you can. Those will wear down the cartilage with friction.
Our bodies use inflammation to protect us from harm. When something goes wrong, the body uses inflammation to make sure the situation doesn’t worsen. It gets rid of infection and prevents disease. But it’s not a perfect system. Sometimes, it chooses to send inflammation to attack the joints. From there, it can attack other organs in the bodies, usually the eyes. So, the goal with this type is to manage the disease through medication and prevent the disease from worsening.
Smokers beware: you are far more vulnerable to this type of arthritis than non-smokers!
In this case, arthritis is actually a sign of another (usually more serious) form of disease. Inflammation is caused by an outside source: bacteria, virus or even a fungus. Food poisoning can lead to infectious arthritis, such as Salmonella. You can even get arthritis through unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia or gonorrhea. Finally, Hep C can lead to getting arthritis. The good news in all of these is that treating the underlying disease in time can prevent long term damage to the joints.
If you enjoy eating rich foods or are overweight in general, you might have an overabundance of Uric Acid. Drinking alcohol also increases Uric Acid levels. When those levels get too high, you are in danger of developing arthritis because the body can’t purge the acid quickly enough. When it builds up, it also forms crystals in our joints, causing pain. And not just any pain, sharp pain and gout! Unlike other forms of arthritis, this one comes in sharp attacks sporadically. But if the levels of uric acid don’t subside, it could lead to long term problems.
But don’t use diuretics to shortcut the weight loss process. That, too, can lead to this form of arthritis!
Unfortunately, because arthritis doesn’t usually manifest itself until later in life, people don’t give much thought to preventative measures. This is problematic because early diagnosis and treatment is the key to not have it adversely affect how you live your life.
The good news is you don’t have to wait until the symptoms get intolerable before you act! Walk-in Lab has a variety of arthritis blood tests to choose from. Learn what level of susceptibility you have for arthritis. So, watch your weight and GET TESTED!