According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 52.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, making it one of the most common physical conditions.
While the term arthritis itself refers to inflammation of the joints, it is also used to denote an entire class of rheumatoid conditions affecting the joints and connective tissues. Symptoms include pain and stiffness around the affected areas. Arthritis can vary widely in terms of location and severity.
Even so, people who live with arthritis are acutely aware of the personal costs: joint pain, reduced mobility and difficulty completing everyday tasks are among the many things they have to navigate. The condition also has a cost to the country at large—as the nation’s No. 1 cause of disability, the economic impact of arthritis is significant. Understanding that impact, and how it affects your patients, can help HME providers determine the appropriate product assortment and approach to best serve their customers.
Economic Impact of Arthritis
The economic impact of arthritis affects both employees and employers. According to the Arthritis Foundation, working-age people between the ages of 18 and 64 are less likely to be employed if they suffer from arthritis. One-third of people with the condition face limitations in the ability to work a full-time schedule, as well as in the kind of work they are able to do. Even those who are employed may deal with significant issues managing their pain and report missing more work days due to arthritis than any other condition. These figures underscore how costly arthritis can be to navigate, on both sides.
Between lost wages and medical expenses, arthritis costs $128 billion annually. This includes 44 million outpatient visits and nearly 1 million hospitalizations.
Considering the employment difficulties that people with arthritis face, the high medical costs can be all the more daunting. Proper management of arthritis and its related symptoms isn’t just advisable on an individual level; it can also help the country’s economy as a whole.
According to the CDC, costs directly attributable to arthritis equaled 1.2 percent of the entire national GDP, including nearly $50 billion just in lost wages.
Causes of Arthritis
There is no one answer for what causes arthritis. Thankfully, there are a few ways to mitigate the impact of arthritis. The condition can crop up suddenly at any time, without the presence of an obvious cause, even in people under the age of 16. Currently, there are nearly 300,000 people in the U.S. dealing with juvenile arthritis, an umbrella term used to denote any one of a number of rheumatoid conditions. If arthritis is related to gout, elevated levels of uric acid could be the culprit. Similarly, there are a number of infections that present with arthritis as a side effect, per the CDC.
Risk Factors of Arthritis
While there is no single factor that causes all arthritis types, there are a number of risk factors, both modifiable and non-modifiable, that can impact the likelihood that it develops. It is important to note that even in the presence of multiple risk factors, chance still plays a large role in whether a person will get arthritis.
Non-modifiable risk factors:
- Family history. Some forms of arthritis are more likely to be passed down genetically. These include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and ankylosing spondylitis.
- Age. People are more likely to develop arthritis as they get older.
- Gender. While some forms of arthritis are more common in men, such as gout, most affect women more frequently. For this reason, 60 percent of all people with the condition are female.
Modifiable risk factors:
Lifestyle and Arthritis Pain
- Occupation. Strenuous occupations, especially those that require excessive knee bending or squatting, are correlated with the development of arthritis.
- Infection. Certain microbial agents can enter joints and increase the likelihood of arthritis developing in them.
- Injury. If a joint is damaged, it is more susceptible to developing arthritis down the line.
- Body weight. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop arthritis. In addition, not only does excess weight impact the onset of the condition, it can also cause its progression and increase the pain related to it as well.
- Smoking. Arthritis Research UK noted: “We do know that rheumatoid arthritis is more common and can be more severe in people who smoke. For some people, stopping smoking might reduce the risk of developing arthritis in the future. If you’d like to stop smoking, talk to your doctor, who can give you advice and information to help you quit.”
Lifestyle and Arthritis Pain
People living with arthritis should consult their doctors to determine a diet that fits in with their lifestyles, and will not exacerbate discomfort related to the condition.
The CDC notes that moderate physical activity five or more times weekly can reduce stiffness, relieve discomfort and give those with joint conditions more energy. Moderate physical activity is defined as any task that causes a slight increase in heart rate or breathing, and includes such things as dancing, gardening and washing the car, provided that they are done at a sufficient pace. The CDC also provides more detailed programs.
Another way to mitigate the impact of arthritis is through the use of compression sleeves. Look for compression sleeves identified by the Arthritis Foundation for ease of use among patients with arthritis, such as the IMAK Compression line. While compression sleeves cannot cure arthritis, they can make everyday tasks, such as working, gardening or other activities, easier. HMEs who carry these cash items can encourage their use and even allow customers to try them on to ensure proper fit and comfort. Most compression products are available without a prescription.
Emerging research also suggests vibration therapy may offer significant benefit. A 2017 clinical study by the Pain Management Center in conjunction with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found vibration therapy may significantly reduce pain among those living with arthritis.
Before pursuing any course of treatment, individuals should consult with a physician. A trained professional is best equipped to determine which regimens are most appropriate for a particular person.
COMMON TYPES OF ARTHRITIS
There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related diseases. The most common are listed below. Source: arthritis.org (Arthritis Foundation)
- Osteoarthritis (OA). The protective cartilage inside the joint breaks down. This makes movement of joints more difficult and painful. In time, bones of the joint may rub directly against one another, causing severe pain.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). The joints and other organs are attacked by the body’s own immune system, damaging the healthy tissue of the lining of the joints, called the synovium. Over time, the joint is broken down and permanently damaged.
- Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA). An autoimmune inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks the body, causing inflammation and pain. PsA affects the joints, causing arthritis, the connective tissuse, and the skin, causing psoriasis.
- Fibromyalgia. This condition is considered a central pain syndrome. The disorder is characterized by widespread pain that may come and go, or be constant. It also features other symptoms such as sleep problems, fatigue, mood problems and inability to concentrate.
- Gout. This form of inflammatory arthritis does not cause wide-spread pain and inflammation. Uric acid crystals build up in the joints (usually the big toe), causing painful inflammation. People with gout may go to bed feeling fine and wake up in excruciating pain.
- Lupus. This autoimmune inflammatory disease affects many parts of the body, including the joints, kidneys, skin and brain. The disease can cause joint pain, fatigue, hair loss, sensitivity to light, fever, rash and kidney problems.