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NOT BORN YESTERDAY: Is arthritis in your life?

By LINDA BROWN, Not Born Yesterday

Since arthritis affects more than 27 million Americans, it seems highly likely our readers will be interested in learning more about the disease that literally means “inflammation of a joint.”

We went to Luanne Freund, Vintage Park Assisted Living Center director, and asked for some basic information as well as insight she’s gained through years of being a health care professional.

“There are many kinds of arthritis,” Freund said. “But osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common.

“Osteoarthritis generally means the cartilage, or slippery tissue that protects the end of your bones in the joint, gradually wears down. That makes your knees hurt or makes you feel old-lady-ish when you move from a seated or prone position.”

No one knows what causes the tissue breakdown, but researchers believe it’s a combination of such factors as aging, joint injury, genetic tendencies and obesity.

Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA, also causes the same achy, stiff joints but is an autoimmune disease that makes the body attack its own joints causing their linings to swell and hurt. RA is likely to attack women three times more often than men and tends to first occur between the ages of 25 and 50.

Regular arthritis tends to affect weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips, but RA more often impacts the whole body, both large and small joints as well as other organs.

While a mental image of arthritis generally depicts a more advanced in age senior, if you’ve had a joint injury, arthritis can happen at any age.

The first stages of arthritis might be silent and are most likely to present symptomatically in hands, knees, lower back, neck and finger joints. If you have swelling or pain in your joints for more than two weeks, it’s time to visit your doctor.

“Most people think arthritis is just part of the aging process and they have to put up with it,” Freund said. “That’s just not true.”

Nest week: Getting diagnosed and treated.

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