Arthritis means joint inflammation, but the term is used to describe around 200 conditions that affect joints, the tissues that surround the joint, and other connective tissue. It is a rheumatic condition.
Rheumatic conditions tend to involve pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in and around one or more joints. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Certain rheumatic conditions can also involve the immune system and various internal organs of the body.
Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus (SLE), can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 54.4 million adults in the United States have received a diagnosis of some form of arthritis. Of these, 23.7 million people have their activity curtailed in some way by their condition.
Arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, but it can affect people of all ages, including children.
Fast facts on arthritis
Here are some key points about arthritis. More detail is in the main article.
- Arthritis refers to around 200 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
- It can cause a range of symptoms and impair a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.
- Physical activity has a positive effect on arthritis and can improve pain, function, and mental health.
- Factors in the development of arthritis include injury, abnormal metabolism, genetic makeup, infections, and immune system dysfunction.
- Treatment aims to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain quality of life. It involves medications, physical therapies, and patient education and support.
A healthful, balanced diet with appropriate exercise, avoiding smoking, and not drinking excess alcohol can help people with arthritis maintain their overall health.
There is no specific diet that treats arthritis, but some types of food may help reduce inflammation.The following foods, found in a Mediterranean diet, can provide many nutrients that are good for joint health:
- nuts and seeds
- fruits and vegetables
- olive oil
- whole grains
Foods to avoid
There are some foods that people with arthritis may want to avoid.Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, contain a chemical called solanine that some studies have linked with arthritis pain. Research findings are mixed when it comes to these vegetables, but some people have reported a reduction in arthritis symptoms when avoiding nightshade vegetables.
Self-management of arthritis symptoms is also important.Key strategies include:
- staying physically active
- achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- getting regular check-ups with the doctor
- protecting joints from unnecessary stress
- Seven habits that can help a person with arthritis to manage their condition are:
- Being organized: keep track of symptoms, pain levels, medications, and possible side effects for consultations with your doctor.
- Managing pain and fatigue: a medication regimen can be combined with non-medical pain management. Learning to manage fatigue is key to living comfortably with arthritis.
- Staying active: exercise is beneficial for managing arthritis and overall health.
- Balancing activity with rest: in addition to remaining active, rest is equally important when your disease is active.
- Eating a healthful diet: a balanced diet can help you achieve a healthy weight and control inflammation. Avoid refined, processed foods and pro-inflammatory animal-derived foods and choose whole plant foods that are high in antioxidants and that have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Improving sleep: poor sleep can aggravate arthritis pain and fatigue. Take steps to improve sleep hygiene so you find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Avoid caffeine and strenuous exercise in the evenings and restrict screen-time just before sleeping.
- Caring for joints: tips for protecting joints include using the stronger, larger joints as levers when opening doors, using several joints to spread the weight of an object such as using a backpack and gripping as loosely as possible by using padded handles.
- Do not sit in the same position for long periods. Take regular breaks to keep mobile.