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Nurse and Patient HandsSponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, Arthritis Action Month is intended to educate people about arthritis, its symptoms, its treatments, and its effects on an individual's functionality and productivity. Arthritis affects more than 50 million Americans and costs approximately 128 billion dollars a year in lost wages and productivity. The leading cause of disability, arthritis is a degenerative joint disease, normally classified into one of three types.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, causing stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion of the affected joints. Caused by a breakdown of the joint's cartilage, osteoarthritis is most commonly found in the hands, knees, hips, low back, and neck. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include repeated overuse, obesity or overweight, heredity, sedentary lifestyle, or prior joint injury. Regular exercise to build surrounding muscle and maintain joint movement is necessary, and pain relievers may be an option. Physical or occupational therapy may also be needed to regain and/or preserve flexibility.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system attacks it own tissue causing inflammation and long-term joint damage. Though the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may be limited to the joints, it is a systemic disease that can affect organs throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis needs to be diagnosed and monitored by a doctor.

Juvenile arthritis - any type of arthritis diagnosed in someone under the age of 18 - can lead to changes in the growth of bones and joints and lead to a shorter stature as an adult. Children with juvenile arthritis need to be monitored by their physician.

Treatment for osteoarthritis ranges from lifestyle changes to surgery.Some of the most common treatments are:
  • lose weight/ maintain healthy weight
  • exercise regularly - especially flexibility exercises
  • physical therapy
  • medication such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin), corticosteroids (by mouth or injection), or acetaminophen
  • arthroscopic surgery (surgeon is able to "clean" the joint of floating debris and inflamed tissue)
  • joint replacement surgery
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis can vary, so it's important to be seen regularly by a doctor.

A health insurance plan can help offset the out-of-pocket cost of treatment. Call TCU Insurance at (800) 772-8043 for more information on all your South Bend health insurance needs.
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