Thirteen myths about arthritis and rheumatic disease

A diagnosis of arthritis or another rheumatic disease can cause someone to feel anxious and even a little overwhelmed. Being a knowledgeable and empowered patient can help alleviate some of those feelings, and being able to navigate through the many misconceptions about arthritis and rheumatic diseases is vitally important.

Nearly 50 million U.S. adults—and 300,000 children—suffer from arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, and there are many myths surrounding how a person 'gets' arthritis, what can be done to treat it, and things to avoid to not exacerbate it.

Below are thirteen myths about arthritis and rheumatic disease:

Myth: Arthritis is one disease.
Myth: Arthritis is an older person's disease. Kids don't get arthritis.
Myth: Rheumatic diseases aren't nearly as common as other diseases.
Myth: Wearing a copper bracelet can cure arthritis.
Myth: Any doctor can treat my rheumatic disease.
Myth: Smoking does not increase my risk for developing an autoimmune disorder.
Myth: Children outgrow arthritis.
Myth: Arthritis is brought on by weather changes.
Myth: Exercise should be avoided if you have arthritis or another rheumatic disease.
Myth: People with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases should seek herbal remedies and supplements for their treatment.
Myth: My weight has no impact on my arthritis.
Myth: Cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis.
Myth: Arthritis is an inevitable part of life, so you just have to deal with it.

And here are these myths, as busted by members of the American College of Rheumatology:

Myth: Arthritis is one disease.

Truth: Arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe over 100 medical conditions and diseases, known as rheumatic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and gout.

Myth: Arthritis is an older person's disease. Kids don't get arthritis.

Truth: Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases do not discriminate based on age. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, affecting more than 1.3 million Americans (about 75 percent are women). RA most often begins between the 30s and 50s; however, RA can develop at any age.

Additionally, about one child in every 1,000 develops some type of juvenile arthritis. These disorders can affect children at any age, although rarely in the first six months of life.

Myth: Rheumatic diseases aren't nearly as common as other diseases.

Truth: In the United States alone, there nearly 50 million adults and 300,000 children with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. Rheumatic diseases are more frequently the cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Forty percent of Americans have arthritis-related work limitations, and 60 percent of people with RA are unable to work 10 years after disease onset.

Myth: Wearing a copper bracelet can cure arthritis.

Truth: Copper bracelets have a reputation for helping with various health problems, including pain caused by physical conditions, such as arthritis. These benefits are passed along by word of mouth, and because of the popularity of these bracelets, many studies have been conducted to see whether their positive reputation is deserved.

There may indeed be benefits, although they appear to be based on the placebo effect rather than a true physical reaction.

Myth: Any doctor can treat my rheumatic disease.

Truth: While primary care physicians are an important part of a person's health care team, you may need to see a rheumatologist, who is a physician who specializes in treating arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. If you had cancer, you would see an oncologist. If a child were to suffer from diabetes, he or she would be taken to an endocrinologist. Just as you would reach out to a specialist for these types of diseases, you should turn to a rheumatologist as your lead physician to treat rheumatic diseases.

Myth: Smoking does not increase my risk for developing an autoimmune disorder.

Truth: Smoking is well known to be associated with increased risk of emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and other adverse health outcomes. It has now been recognized that smoking increases the risk for developing autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In addition, patients who smoke appear to have worse arthritis and other symptoms. The reasons for the association between smoking and autoimmune disease are not fully understood, but seem to relate to smoking-induced triggering of immune system, leading to these diseases.

Myth: Children outgrow arthritis.

Truth: In reality, over 50 percent of children with juvenile arthritis will enter adulthood with active arthritis, and even as adults, the characteristics (such as their rheumatoid factor status and suffering from other conditions such as uvetis) of their arthritis are more like JIA than RA.

Myth: Arthritis is brought on by weather changes.

Truth: While changes in the weather can exacerbate arthritis symptoms, such as joint pain, weather does not cause arthritis or other rheumatic diseases.

Myth: Exercise should be avoided if you have arthritis or another rheumatic disease.

Truth: Physically active individuals are healthier, happier and live longer than those who are inactive and unfit. This is especially true for people with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. People with arthritis should work with their health care team to determine the best type of exercise for them (e.g., swimming, walking, tai chi, light weight lifting, etc.).

Myth: People with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases should seek herbal remedies and supplements for their treatment.

Truth: Despite new and more effective treatments, many arthritis patients live with chronic pain and disability. Some people turn to herbal medicines and other "natural" remedies in the belief that they are effective and safer than conventional medications. Unfortunately, most information available to the public about these remedies in the media and on the internet is misleading. Because the FDA is currently unable to regulate the quality of herbal remedies and supplements, or to verify their effectiveness or safety, the use of herbal remedies is not recommended.

Myth: My weight has no impact on my arthritis.

Truth: Some studies show that even a small amount of weight loss can help ease arthritis pain - particularly in the knees and hips. Treating rheumatic diseases is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each condition requires a specific multidisciplinary treatment that may include diet, exercise, medication, and/or behavioral changes.

Myth: Cracking your knuckles can cause arthritis.

Truth: Some studies have shown that this habit can cause damage to the ligaments, but there is no evidence that knuckle cracking can lead to arthritis.

Myth: Arthritis is an inevitable part of life, so you just have to deal with it.

Truth: Aches and pains are an inevitable part of life. But, sometimes, pain in the joints, muscles or bones is severe or persists for more than a few days. At that point, you should see your physician to determine if a referral to a rheumatologist is appropriate.

Living your life with prolonged stiffness and pain isn't something you should deal with on your own. Rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals are trained to help you not only find a way to live with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, but many treatments offered by rheumatologists can even stop certain diseases and conditions in their tracks.

Make sure you see your rheumatologist to determine which treatments are best for you.

Rheumatologists are devoted to the care of the whole person. With their comprehensive knowledge of the immune system, rheumatologists understand how rheumatic diseases affect the entire body from head to toe. And, because rheumatic diseases are not only complex but chronic, rheumatologists see their patients frequently over much of their lifetimes. They help them to understand and manage a variety of health issues - from medications to physical therapy to surgery needs to mental health to pregnancy to common infections. Rheumatologists serve as lifelong care leaders for their patients.

Learn more about living well with rheumatic disease as well as rheumatologists and the role they play in health care.

Comments

  1. sabona france sabona france France says:

    J'aime vos comments sur le sujet de rhumatisme - une grave maladie pour plusieurs personnes. Je porte un bracelet du cuivre et je suis convaincre qu'il marche pour mes douleurs. Je conseille pour les gens avec les douleurs de rhumatisme d'essayer un bracelet du cuivre. Je crois que c'est un remede naturel - meilleur que les medicaments si vous le pouvez.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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