One in five of us has arthritis. What is our most common disability can also be a painful disease — or set of about a hundred conditions — that makes it difficult to do the things we need to: drive, climb stairs, walk or even work. According to a 2007-09 national health survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 million (22 percent) American adults have arthritis, with that number projected to soar to 67 million (25 percent) by the year 2030.
Arthritis is not just an affliction of the elderly, although the chance of having it increases with age. Two-thirds of those affected are under 65. People of all ages, including one out of every 250 children, have it. Women have it in higher numbers than men.
There is a link between arthritis and obesity, with a third of obese adults also having arthritis, that makes the physical activity that is helpful in losing weight much more difficult. Over half of diabetic adults have arthritis, too.
The cause of osteoarthritis is the wearing away of cartilage and soft tissue in the joints. This condition progresses gradually, allowing the bones to rub against each other, resulting in stiffness, pain, loss of function and sometimes deformities. Joints in weight-bearing parts of the body are the most commonly affected.
Though the direct cause of the disease is unknown, precipitating factors can include genetics (such as inherited traits like double-jointedness), joint injury such as what many athletes experience, or regular wear and tear/overuse of the joint as in some types of work that require repeated motions, like bending the knees constantly. Being overweight can contribute to arthritis of the lower back, hips and knees. Lifestyle factors, such as the amount of sleep and exercise you get, may be responsible at least in part. Sometimes it is a combination of all these factors.