Arthritis is preventable and treatable, if you recognize the real signs.
Arthritis is perhaps one of the most “mysterious” medical conditions. And yet, so many people suffer from it, an estimated 54 million adults – more than those with breast cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and autism combined. Most Americans don’t realize it’s the No. 1 cause of long-term disability in the US.
I understand their confusion. There are about 100 different types of arthritis and related diseases affecting joints and bones. The two forms doctors see most often are osteoarthritis — the wear-and-tear type that is typical of athletes and natural aging, and an inflammatory, autoimmune type known as rheumatoid arthritis.
Both develop on average around age 60 – but inflammatory (rheumatoid) is more urgent and causes a much more rapid deterioration of joint function. Joint damage can happen in as little as 6 to 8 weeks if you don’t recognize it, which is why we need to raise awareness so people can seek help immediately.
Here are some of the myths worth busting for Arthritis Awareness Month:
1. Only people over 60 get it. While this is the typical age for both common types of arthritis, even kids and young adults 20 to 30 can get rheumatoid arthritis. The signs are often sneaky, and can start slowly and mild, or come on fast and intense. Classic issues are joint pain, swelling and stiffness. While these symptoms can be caused by lots of other temporary things, if the question pops into your head, it’s worth getting to the doctor to have it checked out. With diagnosis and the right treatment, we can help you prevent further damage.
2. You have to stop exercising to prevent more damage. Exercise and strengthening can actually reduce the progression of disease in inflammatory arthritis, and reduce pain in those suffering from osteoarthritis. And you don’t have to go crazy – even moderate exercise, like walking or swimming, can help. Movement helps to strengthen the muscles around your joints, control your weight, and maintain bone strength, all of which reduces stress on your joints.
3. My diet doesn’t matter. Certain foods can reduce inflammation and make all forms of arthritis less painful. A good guideline is the follow the “Mediterranean diet,” including healthy oils, fish, lots of fruit and vegetables, nuts, whole grains – and avoid processed foods.
4. The weather doesn’t affect my symptoms. Weather and barometric changes can influence the pressure in large joints, which is why many people with arthritis can in fact predict weather changes and will feel worse with cold, damp weather. If this is you – it could be a sign of arthritis, so check it out.
But perhaps the biggest myth? People think there is no real treatment for arthritis – that is false! In my office we can diagnose for arthritis through a series of imaging and blood testing. Working together with a team of orthopedists, rheumatologists and physical therapists, many of my patients are able to effectively manage their symptoms and keep moving no matter what their age!
To make an appointment with Dr. Kulcsar or one of our other Rheumatology Specialists at White Plains Hospital, call (914) 849-7900.