Essentially, arthritis is a pain or swelling in a joint, caused by some toxin or injury. Arthritis is a symptomatic feature of many types of related diseases and, as a general term, can refer to approximately 100 different conditions that cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints and other connective tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments).
There are three basic categories of arthritis:
Chronic arthritis (the latter two categories) does not go away, unlike a temporary inflammation caused by a localized infection of a joint. Usually the cause is not curable and treatment aims at reducing pain and discomfort and preventing further disability.
Diet may affect certain joint disorders, but its role is strongest only in rare situations. For example: diets high in purines, a form of protein found in sardines, liver and other organ meats, may worsen gout; alcohol intake, if a major part of the diet, plays a stronger role. Patients with celiac disease, a rare condition in which there is an autoimmune reaction to gluten in the diet, occasionally have arthritis as part of their illness. Removal of gluten from the diet can reverse this condition as long as the restrictive diet is followed. However, for the more common forms of arthritis and joint pain (including degenerative arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, tendinitis and bursitis), there is no clear connection to diet. Efforts to remove certain types of food or to add others in an attempt to treat arthritis have met with inconclusive or disappointing results. Recent research has identified an association between low vitamin D intake and degenerative arthritis, but it is not known whether extra vitamin D intake will prevent or treat degenerative joint disease. In the absence of a particular vitamin deficiency, no clear benefit from supplemental vitamins or nutrients has been established. Weight reduction may help to prevent or treat gout or degenerative arthritis. Basic lifestyle choices can help considerably for all types of arthritis, such as maintaining a regular exercise regiment, dropping extra weight, and eating a plant-based, whole foods diet.
Arthritis is common (one in seven individuals suffer from arthritis), can occur in males and females of all ages and is not limited to the very old (36% are under 40 years of age, 79% are under 60). Millions of dollars are spent on research each year.
Nearly 43 million people in the USA have arthritis. As reported in the U.S. National Health Interview Survey (2015), the rate of arthritis symptomology was 29.9 percent in men under 65 and 31.2 percent in women under 65. Of course, this jumped sharply with age. The prevalence in men 65 and older was 55.8 percent, and 68.7 percent among their female peers. Undiagnosed arthritis was more common than previously thought: in subjects between the ages of 18 and 64, 19.3 percent of men and 16.7 percent of women had chronic joint pain but no diagnosis of arthritis; among those 65 or older, nearly 16 percent of men and just under 14 percent of women reported suffering from joint pain without an official arthritis diagnosis.
The incidence of rheumatoid arthritis increases with age. Women are affected more frequently than men. It is a remittent disease, but each exacerbation adds to the degree of irreversible damage in the joints, so that the prevalence of the arthritis and the resulting crippling disability rises rather steeply with age. Perhaps the most fundamental difficulty with regard to rheumatic diseases today is that the problem is insufficiently appreciated and understood.
Basic lifestyle choices can help considerably for all types of arthritis, such as maintaining a regular exercise regiment, dropping extra weight, and eating a plant-based, whole foods diet.