One in every four Americans, or 54 million adults, has arthritis, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Twenty-four million adults must limit their activities due to the condition, the report added.
Arthritis means joint inflammation. The term describes around 200 rheumatic diseases and conditions that cause pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling of joints and other connective tissue. The most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, gout, and lupus.
“Arthritis symptoms keep millions of Americans from going about their daily routines,” Anne Schuchat, the CDC ‘s acting director, said in a news release.
The number of people disabled by arthritis has jumped 20 percent since 2002, according to the CDC’s Vital Signs report.
More than half of adults with arthritis, 32 million, are of working age — 18-64 years. It remains unclear why so many Americans have the condition.
The CDC said the medical costs alone of arthritis amount to $81 billion a year in the United States.
Doctors prescribe opioid medicines to many adults with arthritis, although other options for pain are safer.
Instead of prescribing opioids, the CDC recommended that doctors encourage their patients to do physical activity, which can decrease pain and improve physical function. The agency said exercise can reduce arthritis symptoms by 40 percent and reduce healthcare costs.
“Physical activity is a proven strategy to ease pain and reduce symptoms among people with arthritis,” Schuchat said.
Those with the condition can also reduce their symptoms by participating in education programs, said the CDC, adding that doctors can make the difference in patients signing up.
Only one in 10 people with arthritis has been in an education program. The CDC said patients are more likely to attend if a doctor recommends it.
Along with physical activity, “it is just as important for them [doctors] to motivate their patients to attend workshops to learn how to better manage their arthritis,” said Kamil Barbour of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
About half of adults with arthritis have other health issues, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the CDC said. Exercise not only can improve arthritis, but the other conditions as well, it said.