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May is National Arthritis Awareness Month!

No Myth: The Facts About Arthritis

Arthritis affects an estimated 50 million U.S. adults and is the most common cause of disability in the United States according to Centers for Disease Control and Awareness (CDC). “Faces of Arthritis,” the theme for 2015, is designed to challenge arthritis stereotypes and educate the public about the impacts of arthritis and to promote clinical and public health interventions to control the condition.

When most of us think about arthritis, we envision an elderly man or woman suffering with aching joints, but did you know that the disease affects people of all ages? Arthritis comprises a set of diseases that are not a normal part of aging and is not a single disease, but a term that covers over 100 medical conditions. Arthritis Research UK says that most types of arthritis are caused by a combination of several factors working together. Some factors may increase your arthritis risk, including: Your genetic makeup; a physically demanding job; a previous injury; certain infections or allergic reactions; obesity, which places extra strain on joints; and autoimmune disease.

Dispelling the Myths

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with arthritis, it’s important to learn more about the disease and its impact, but pinning down the facts about arthritis can be difficult. The disease is often misunderstood and surrounded by many myths, as explained by the Arthritis Foundation:

Myth #1: Arthritis is just minor aches and pains associated with getting older.

Fact: Arthritis is actually a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions that can affect people of all ages, races, and genders. Arthritis is not just a disease of old age—two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Of the more than 50 million Americans with arthritis, more than 36 million are Caucasians, more than 4.6 million are African-Americans, and 2.9 million are Hispanic.

Arthritis can take many forms, but three of the common diseases that make up arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage associated with risk factors, such as overweight/obesity, history of joint injury, and age.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membranes lining the joint, causes pain, stiffness, warmth, swelling, and sometimes severe joint damage.
  • Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.

Myth #2: Arthritis is not a serious health problem.

Fact: Arthritis places a growing burden on the health care and economic systems in the U.S. People with arthritis account for 44 million outpatient visits and 992,100 hospitalizations each year and the disease is the leading cause of disability in this country. Within 20 years the number of people with arthritis will soar—by 2030, an estimated 67 million Americans will have arthritis unless the trend is reversed.

Myth #3: People with arthritis should avoid exercising.  

Fact: Exercise is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, strong evidence exists indicating that both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits for people with OA and rheumatic conditions. A growing body of research indicates that exercise, weight management, and the avoidance of joint injury can go a long way in helping to prevent OA.

Myth #4: Not much can be done for arthritis.

Fact: Relief is available and new treatments are in the pipeline. The Arthritis Foundation helps those with arthritis live better lives by helping patients understand their treatment options, demonstrating ways to manage pain, and lobbying Congress to do more for those suffering from the disease. The organization also looks to the future through research to determine the underlying causes of arthritis and to find more effective treatment and, eventually, a cure.

Who Treats Arthritis in Eastern North Carolina?

Rheumatologists treat arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. A rheumatologist is an internist qualified by additional training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles, and bones.

The role of the rheumatologist is to diagnose, treat, and medically manage individuals with rheumatic disorders. These doctors interact with patients and their families as a resource for health information and as a collaborator with other health care providers.

Coastal Carolina Health Care’s Dr. James L. Perruquet is currently accepting new patients at CCHC New Bern Internal Medicine Specialists. Dr. Perruquet completed his internship, residency, and fellowship in rheumatology at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania. He is a fellow with the American College of Rheumatology and is board certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology. If you have questions about joint pain or other factors that may be signs of arthritis, give him a call at (252) 633-5333.

When to Make an Appointment

When pain in the joints, muscles, or bones are severe or persist for more than a few days, you should see a physician.

Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Dr. Perruquet is specially trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of swelling and pain. It’s important to determine a correct diagnosis early so that appropriate treatment can begin early. Some musculoskeletal disorders respond best to treatment in the early stages of the disease.

Because some rheumatic diseases are complex, one visit may not be enough to determine a diagnosis and course of treatment. Arthritis often changes or evolves over time. Dr. Perruquet can work with you to identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program.

Dr. James L. Perruquet, at CCHC New Bern Internal Medicine Specialists, is currently accepting new patients and would be happy to discuss any concerns you may have about your joint health and provide any educational materials you might need. To make an appointment, call 252-633-5333.