Arthritis Stigma Persists Despite Being #1 Cause Of Disability

Nearly one million adults in the Houston area suffer from various forms of arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation is trying to end stereotypes about the disease, which many dismiss as an old person's condition that can't really be treated.

Susan Carter is the regional leader for the Arthritis Foundation.

She says people with arthritis are often embarrassed about it and suffer in silence:

“I think there is an implied stigma and shame around people thinking that it just is an old person’s disease and if I say I have it implies I’m old. You know, truthfully, we need to be outraged about it. We need to pull it out of the closet, people need to start talking about it, it’s the nation’s leading cause of disability, one in five Americans is going to suffer from this.”

The fact is two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65.

Some of them have osteoarthritis caused by aging or wear and tear, but others have rheumatoid arthritis caused by autoimmune disease attacking their joints.  

Roberta Byrum is chief operating officer for the national foundation.

She says the number of Americans with arthritis will increase by 34 percent in the next two decades.

“And that’s directly attributable to the baby boomers who are moving through the pipeline, combined with the obesity epidemic. Carrying excess weight has a direct impact on the destruction of your joints. Simply losing weight – for every pound you lose, that’s four pounds of pressure taken off your knees.”

Byrum says many patients don’t ask for treatment or don’t know how much exercise can really help.

“It’s not something that you have to live with as you get older. So, keeping your joints active keeps them lubricated, it strengthens the muscles which help to protect the joint and it is proven to reduce pain and increase your mobility.”

The Foundation is holding a fundraising walk Saturday at 9 a.m. in West Houston.

From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.

 

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...