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101 Interesting Facts about Arthritis


  1. 1 in 5 adults living in the United States reports having doctor-diagnosed arthritis.


  1. Nearly 1 in 3 adults living in the United States has either doctor-diagnosed arthritis or chronic joint symptoms that have not been diagnosed by a doctor.  This number is up from 1 in 6 adults in 1998, and the number continues to increase as the population increases.


  1. Arthritis is second only to heart disease as a cause of work disability.


  1. 39 million physician visits and more than 500,000 hospitalizations are attributable to arthritis.


  1. Half of those Americans afflicted with arthritis do not think anything can be done to help them.


  1. Arthritis literally means inflammation of the joints.  However, some forms of arthritis inflame more than just joints and some cause very little inflammation.


  1. Arthritis refers to a large group of diseases that affect areas in and around joints.


  1. Arthritis is the one of the most prevalent chronic (persistent and long-lasting) health conditions.


  1. The prevalence of arthritis increases with age.


  1. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, each differing widely in progression, cause, symptoms and method of treatment.  The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, affecting an estimated 21 million people.


  1. The cause of most types of arthritis is unknown.


  1. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability among Americans over age 15.


  1. Arthritis is one of the oldest diseases known to man and has been discovered in the remains of people who lived over 500,000 years ago.


  1. More women than men are afflicted with arthritis.


  1. All age groups are affected by arthritis, including about 300,000 children.


  1. Arthritis is diagnosed by the patient’s medical history, a physical examination, blood and laboratory tests and/or X-rays.


  1. The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.


  1. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions and occurs nearly as often as insulin-dependent juvenile diabetes.


  1. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis has two peaks of onset: between 1 and 3 years and between 8 and 12 years.


  1. Girls are twice as likely to develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as boys.


  1. The prognosis for those with juvenile arthritis is good.  75% of children with juvenile arthritis recover without significant joint damage.


  1. 8.4 million adults between the ages of 18 and 44 have arthritis.


  1. Arthritis costs the U.S. economy $86.2 billion per year.


  1.  When both direct and indirect costs (such as lost wages) are combined, arthritis costs the U.S. economy more than $124 billion per year.


  1. More than half of those affected with arthritis are under age 65.


  1. Almost half of those afflicted with arthritis have one of the two most common types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


  1. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, occurs when cartilage, a type of dense connective tissue that protects bones at joints, deteriorates and causes bone to rub against bone.


  1.  Osteoarthritis is often called a “wear and tear” disorder.


  1.  While Osteoarthritis cannot be cured,  there are treatment forms that includes drugs and tailored programs of exercise.  There are also numerous studies on the way to determine the of natural substances, such as Glucosamaine and Chondroitin, for the rebuilding of cartilage tissue.


  1.  Injured joints are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than joints that have not been injured.


  1.  Women of average height who are overweight and lose 10 pounds or more over 10 years can cut their risk of developing osteoarthritis by half. 


  1.  Young adults with knee injuries have 6 times the risk of developing osteoarthritis by age 65 than those without knee injuries.


  1.  Young adults with hip injuries have 3 times the risk of developing osteoarthritis by age 65 than those without hip injuries.


  1.  Even though one may have joint damage extensive enough to show up on X-ray, one still may not have symptoms.


  1.  By age 65, more than half of the population has X-ray evidence of joint damage and osteoarthritis in at least one joint.


  1. Rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common form of arthritis, occurs when the body’s immune system reacts against its own joint linings, causing painful inflammation.


  1.  An estimated 0.3 to 1.5 percent of the U.S. population has rheumatoid arthritis.


  1. Most individuals with rheumatoid arthritis are between the ages of 20 and 40.


  1.  Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis includes rest, drugs, exercise and joint replacement or surgical joint repair.


  1.  In very severe cases, rheumatoid arthritis can be treated by injections of a gold compound.


  1.  After 10 to 12 years with rheumatoid arthritis, less than 20% of patients are free of disability or deformity.


  1.  Fewer than five percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis are wheelchair bound or unable to take care of themselves.


  1.  Ten percent of those with rheumatoid arthritis go into complete remission within the first year.


  1.  Although arthritis is unlikely to be fatal, studies have shown that those with rheumatoid arthritis tend to die earlier, mostly due to increased susceptibility to infection.


  1.  Gout is another common form of arthritis, where repeated flare-ups of painful swelling occur.  The bunion joint, which connects the big toe to the foot, is usually affected first.  Various drugs are used to treat gout.


  1.  Septic arthritis, another fairly common form of arthritis, is caused when a joint is infected by bacteria.  Early treatment with antibiotic drugs prevents crippling disability.


  1.  Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis in which spinal joints become inflamed causing the patient to develop a hunched back.  This disease attacks mostly young men and can be treated with drugs and physical therapy.


  1.  Lupus, a form of arthritis that causes chronic inflammation of lungs and tissues, occurs mostly in women of childbearing age.


  1.  Fibromyalgia is a disease in which muscles and attachment to bones are affected, causing severe pain.  This disease affects mainly women.


  1.  Fibromyalgia is sometimes mistaken for Lyme disease.


  1.  People who are overweight or obese report more doctor-diagnosed arthritis.


  1. People who are more than ten pounds overweight have an elevated risk of developing arthritis, especially in weight-bearing joints such as the knees.


  1.  Obesity aggravates the course of osteoarthritis, especially knee osteoarthritis.


  1.  Many people with doctor-diagnosed arthritis report limitations in important activities such as walking, bending and climbing stairs.


  1.   In 1998, the number of deaths due to arthritis and other related rheumatoid conditions was 9, 367.


  1.  Three categories of arthritis alone account for 80% of all deaths due to arthritis.


  1.  Rheumatoid arthritis, the most common chronic inflammatory arthritis, accounts for 22% of all deaths due to arthritis.


  1.  Rheumatoid arthritis is often called the “great crippler.”


  1.  Rheumatoid arthritis is also among the most serious and disabling types of arthritis because it strikes multiple joints, follows an unpredictable course and has no known cure.


  1.  Rheumatoid arthritis afflicts three times as many women as men.


  1.  One of the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is fatigue.


  1.  Rheumatoid arthritis affects mainly women in their forties, although anyone can be affected.


  1.  Rheumatoid arthritis affects the same joints on both sides of the body.


  1.  It is estimated that approximately 10 to 20% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis are expected to have a complete remission early in their disease or to follow a mild intermittent course which will require little medical attention.


  1.  Nearly fifty percent of adults over the age of 65 report doctor-diagnosed arthritis.  


  1.  Not all arthritis is persistent and lasting.  Many are limited and of brief duration.


  1.  Some arthritic conditions have a known cause or causes and can be cured if treated properly.  Others have poorly understood causes and follow an unpredictable course.


  1.  Most of the chronic forms of arthritis are likely to result form a complex interaction between genes and environment.


  1.  Evidence suggests that microbial agents trigger certain types of arthritis in genetically predisposed people.


  1.  Many patients with arthritis are successfully treated.  Indeed, proper treatment can allow the majority of patients to function with little or no pain.


  1.  11.3 percent of Americans report having symptoms of arthritis but have never seen a doctor for help.


  1.  Early treatment can often mean less pain and less joint damage.


  1.  More than 1 in 3 adults with arthritis reported activity limitations and more than 1 in 4 adults reported severe joint pain.


  1.  The black population has a similar prevalence of arthritis to that of whites, but the black population reports higher instances of activity limitations and severe joint pain than do whites.


  1.  The Hispanic population has a lower prevalence of arthritis than whites, but the Hispanic population also reports higher instances of activity limitations and severe joint pain than do whites.


  1.  30.6 percent of the working aged population with arthritis attributed work limitations to their arthritis.


  1.  Studies have shown several connections between food, natural supplements and certain forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout.


  1.  Arthritis pain can be caused by factors such as inflammation, damage to joint tissues, fatigue, depression or stress.


  1. Arthritis and other related conditions rank second to diseases of the circulatory system in total economic costs to society and first among all disease groups in cost through lost income.


  1.  One of the principal features of most types of arthritis is their distinctive flares and periods of lesser disease activity.


  1.  Ninety percent of people suffering from arthritis will turn to folk medicine and the use of quack remedies at some point.


  1.  Some of these remedies include wearing a copper bracelet and the use of the venom of vipers, bees and ants.


  1.  Anti-inflammatory medications alone can cost as much as $50 per month for several years.


  1.  Many forms of arthritis are systemic, i.e., they are not limited to the joints.  In such diseases, practically any organ of the body may be affected, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and skin.


  1.  Fewer than 50% of people with rheumatoid arthritis who were working at the onset of the disease are still working 10 years later.


  1.  No single type of arthritis is better or worse than another type.


  1.  There is no best form of treatment for everyone who has a particular type of arthritis as each individual may respond differently to different kinds of treatments.


  1.  Because symptoms of arthritis vary from day to day, it is common to think that what one ate or did yesterday caused or reduced the symptoms one feels today.


  1.  About 60.7% of those diagnosed with arthritis are women (25.9 million), while 39.3% are men (16.8 million).


  1.  Almost half of people in their 60s and 70s have arthritis that affects their foot or ankle.


  1.  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen are commonly used to treat arthritis.


  1.  Chinese acupuncture and Swedish massages are some of the alternative treatments sought out by those with arthritis.


  1.  Arthritis patients spend billions of dollars a year on untested cures.


  1.  There is no evidence that climate itself can either cure or cause arthritis.


  1.  The three groups of patients most attracted to unproven remedies are those with AIDS, cancer and advanced arthritis. 


  1.  Only a small percentage of genetically susceptible people will actually develop arthritis.


  1.  Regular exercise is an essential tool in managing arthritis.


  1.  There is not yet any scientific proof that certain foods can prevent or cause arthritis.


  1.  More than 90 percent of arthritis patients are seen for a handful of arthritic conditions.


  1. There are about fifteen different types of juvenile arthritis.


101.  Arthritis affects animals, too.  One in every five adult dogs in the United

              States has arthritis.



Authors: Vinitha A Jacob, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

                   Ana Bracilovic, M.D., New York-Presbyterian Hospital, The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, New York City, NY


Works Cited



  1. “Arthritis.” The World Book Encyclopedia. London: World Book, Inc., 1992.
  2. Arthritis Foundation www.arthritis.org
  3. Brewer, Earl and Kathy Cochran Angel. The Arthritis Sourcebook. Chicago: RGA Publishing Group, Inc., 1993.
  4. Centers for Disease Control Statistics on Arthritis www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis_related_statistics.htm
  5. Centers for Disease Control Report on the Impact of Arthritis www.arthritis.org/resources/arthritisanswers/cdc_report.asp
  6. Fernandez-Madrid, Felix. Treating Arthritis: Medicine, Myth and Magic. New York: Plenum Press, 1989.
  7. Hadler, Nortin and Dennis Gillings, eds. Arthritis and Society. London: Butterworths & Co. Ltd., 1985.
  8. Moyer, Ellen. Arthritis: Questions you have…answers you need. Allentown, Pennsylvania: People’s Medical Society, 1997.
  9. Moskowitz, Roland and Marie Huag, eds. Arthritis and the Elderly. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1986.
  10. Pisetsky, David S. and Susan Flamholtz Trien. The Duke University Medical Center Book of Arthritis.  New York: Engel & Engel, Inc., 1991.






 Arthritis MD. © 2005