8 Surprising Facts About Arthritis

Challenge your assumptions and learn more about arthritis pain and how it affects Canadians.

Brought to you by the makers of TYLENOL® Arthritis Pain

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There are many persistent myths and misconceptions about arthritis, a disease that affects one in six Canadians 15 and older and is a leading cause of pain and disability. To get the facts, we talked to Dr. Janet Pope, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology at Western University's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, and Division Head of Rheumatology at St. Joseph's Health Care in London, Ont.

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Arthritis Isn't Limited to Seniors

There are more than 100 types of arthritis, and people of any age can be affected. In fact, according to the Arthritis Society, 56 per cent of Canadians with arthritis are under age 65.

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It's Not "Just Arthritis"

Since many people associate arthritis with aging, they don't realize that it may indicate a life-threatening health problem. "Some types of arthritis increase your mortality and should be managed early, like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, vasculitis, temporal arteritis and other connective tissue diseases," explains Dr. Pope. "The management plan will change the natural history of the disease and change your function, so you may be able to continue working or have a family." If you have persistent joint pain or swelling, see your physician.

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Arthritis Affects Women More Often Than Men

Although the numbers vary, most types of arthritis affect females more often than males, says Dr. Pope. "There are a lot of interactions we don't understand about how genetics and sex hormones affect our diseases," she says. In Canada, two out of three people with arthritis are women, according to the Arthritis Society.

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Being Overweight Raises Your Risk

Excess body weight can increase wear and tear on weight-bearing joints such as your knees, feet and hips. This raises your chances of developing osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, which affects more than 3 million Canadians. Being overweight can also increase your risk of other types of arthritis. Losing even a small amount of weight can reduce stress on the joints and help you avoid surgery.

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Some Arthritis Risk Factors Are Under Your Control

Aging, by itself, doesn't mean you will develop osteoarthritis. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight, you can lower your risk of inflammatory types of arthritis by not smoking and by taking good care of your teeth and gums. "Smoking changes the way the immune system works, and tooth decay means there is more bacteria that can set off the immune system," says Dr. Pope.

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Cracking Your Knuckles Doesn't Cause Arthritis

"You can get osteoarthritis with overuse of a joint, but cracking a knuckle isn't overuse," assures Dr. Pope. "But if you have repeated injuries to your knee when playing a sport, you can certainly get osteoarthritis in that joint because of that injury."

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Arthritis Doesn't Predict the Weather

Contrary to popular belief, there is no connection between the weather and arthritis flare-ups - for most people, anyway. "Studies seem to suggest that changes in barometric pressure, on average, don't affect people's pain," says Dr. Pope.
On the other hand, she adds, "Some people swear that their arthritis is worse right before a big change is barometric pressure, and I believe them." No matter the weather, if arthritis pain is affecting your day-to-day activities, talk to your physician about ways to manage it. TYLENOL® Arthritis Pain, for example, relieves pain fast and provides extended relief that lasts.

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There Are No Natural "Cures" for Arthritis

"If you have inflammatory arthritis, trying to deal with it by natural solutions is not effective, and you can get joint damage," cautions Dr. Pope. "And for osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, there is no treatment to change joint damage over time." If you have a question about natural or alternative therapies, it's a good idea to consult your physician.

© Johnson & Johnson Inc. 2014