A common myth amongst Canadians is that arthritis is a disease of aging, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While it is often worse as we age, early detection can help along with other tactics. So if you’re older, get your children tested as it can make a huge difference for them and yourself. Over 6 million Canadians are affected by arthritis and most commonly, osteoarthritis. Women also suffer more than men from what can be a debilitating chronic condition with over 60% of Canadians with arthritis being women.
Women are affected most because their tendons and joints are more elastic due to childbirth and it is also believed that the drop in estrogen levels after menopause plays a key factor. For men, they are mostly affected in the hip joints. September is arthritis awareness month in Canada and the Canadian Arthritis Society is launching a national awareness campaign in major cities.
“Arthritis is serious. Full stop. For too long people with arthritis have had to convince others of the seriousness of their condition and the validity of their pain,” says Trish Barbato, Canadian Arthritis Society President and CEO. “We’re here to sound the alarm and to extinguish the phrase, ‘it’s just arthritis.’ Because, there’s nothing just about arthritis.”
Arthritis is a collection of more than 100 conditions that affect people of all ages from toddlers to seniors. The idea that arthritis is a disease that manifests with old age is false. In fact, osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis – is more prevalent in those younger than 65 than older.
A recent study revealed that 30% of people living with osteoarthritis were actually diagnosed before 45. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease of the joints that leads to breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone.
“Arthritis is a leading cause of disability and prevents many from being able to participate in the workforce or attend school,” says Barbato. “That’s serious. As part of Arthritis Awareness Month, monuments will be lit in blue across the country including the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, the Calgary Tower, the Toronto sign, Niagara Falls and Halifax City Hall.
Common arthritis symptoms include;
- Pain, swelling, and stiffness in one or multiple joints.
- Morning stiffness in and around the affected joints lasting at least one hour.
- Pain and stiffness that worsens with inactivity and improves with physical activity.
- Reduced range of motion.
- Very early symptoms of osteoarthritis are intermittent pain with strenuous activity; over time, the pain is present more often.
- Joint grinding.
So what are your options to treat arthritis? It depends on the type you have and how far along you are and where it is. For some it is relatively mild with flare ups and can be managed through minor pain relievers, for others it may require stronger medications. Research also shows that diet can have an impact as well. Some who have arthritis move to a plant-based diet which plays a role in reducing inflammation in the whole body. Eating processed foods, especially processed meats is a huge cause of inflammation. If detected earlier in life, treatment seems to be less onerous and can play a role as we age.
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