Arthritis is a chronic disease that currently affects an estimated 50 million U.S. adults (1 in 5) and, due to an aging population, is estimated to increase sharply to 67 million by 2030, an increase that will also impact Huron County residents.
Overall, 22 percent of Huron County residents have been diagnosed with arthritis, increasing to 45 percent for those ages 65 and over.
There are several different types of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of inflammatory arthritis in which one's own body attacks the thin membrane that lines the joints. Besides pain and swelling, the affected area may feel warm to the touch and symptoms such as fatigue, low-grade fever and anemia may occur. Over time, RA may cause joint deformities and affect other body organs.
Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, differs from RA in that bones rub directly on other bones because the cartilage, the protective cushioning between the joints, wears out. Symptoms may include a grinding, grating feeling or crunchy sound when joints move, joint pain and stiffness, and limited range of motion.
There is very little research showing that cold weather directly causes arthritis or alters its course. However, colder air temperatures that begin in fall and last through early spring may increase pressure in joints resulting in heightened pain for some people with arthritis.
Huron County Health Department officials say there are several ways that arthritis can be managed. However, always be sure to follow your health care provider's recommendations.
Here are some tips:
Exercise regularly. Include range-of-motion exercises to keep joints flexible and endurance exercises such as water aerobics, biking and walking.
Get enough sleep. Sleep restores your energy so that you can better manage pain. It also rests your joints to reduce pain and swelling.
Try heat and/or cold therapy to reduce pain and stiffness.
Consider massage. Massage brings warmth and relaxation to the painful area. You can massage your own muscles or ask your doctor to recommend a professional who is trained to give massages.
You can also find therapeutic aquatic and exercise programs for those with arthritis at the Ernsthausen Community Recreation Center and Norwalk Senior Enrichment Services.
For more information about arthritis, including an arthritis help line, visit the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org and click on Northeast region for Huron and Erie county information.