Public Health Column: May is Arthritis Awareness Month
Arthritis is one of the most widespread health conditions in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in every four adults live with the pain of arthritis (1.*)
To recognize this toll on Americans’ health, the CDC and the Arthritis Foundation observe Arthritis Awareness Month every May. Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, proclaims the importance of the month.
“It is imperative to recognize arthritis awareness month as many of our local community members are faced with this debilitating health condition," Pettit said. "Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are many effective treatments available and lifestyle changes that can benefit the quality of life for people suffering with this disease. We want our community to know that help and specialists are available so that no one has to suffer.”
Arthritis is the name of a disease that covers a wide variety of conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout. Common symptoms of arthritis include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.
Symptoms may come and go and can range from mild to severe. Severe arthritis can result in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints, but often the damage can only be seen on X-ray.
Some types of arthritis also affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin as well as the joints.
The arthritis rate in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties in 2016 (crude rate, percentage of people with this health condition per reported region/county), and in New York State are (2.**):
- Genesee: 32.80 percent
- Orleans: 31.10 percent
- Wyoming: 32.70 percent
- New York State: 22.90 percent
“During the coronavirus pandemic, we understand that older ndividuals and people with autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, may be more likely to get seriously sick if they do become infected with the virus, so it is important to take appropriate precautions,” Pettit said.
“It is important that healthy individuals continue taking their medications as prescribed by their physician and to practice social distancing,wearing a face mask or cloth face shield, and to wash hands frequently for 20 seconds.”
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- Arthritis Awareness Month. Reviewed May 2017. Accessed May 27, 2020.
**New York State Department of Health. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Health Indicators by County. Accessed May 27, 2020.
Engaging in physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage arthritis symptoms.
Physical activity can reduce arthritis pain, improve function and mood, and delay the onset of disability. All adults should get two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, per week and do muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.
You can achieve these goals by taking brisk walks for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. You can also break it up into 10 minute sessions and spread it out during the day — walk the dog 10 minutes in the morning, take a 10-minute walk to the post office, coffee shop, or grocery store in the afternoon, and then take a 10-minute walk after dinner.
Make sure to talk to your doctor about new or worsening arthritis symptoms. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in arthritis and related conditions such as a rheumatologist or orthopedist. For more information on arthritis, click here.
For information about Health Department services contact the Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website.