World Arthritis Day on Friday

Friday is World Arthritis Day, and the Michigan Department of Community Health is encouraging residents to mark the occasion by taking control of their health.

Arthritis is a serious health condition affecting more than 2 million Michigan adults, and is the leading cause of disability in the country.

According to recently released national data, 11 percent of adults nationwide with arthritis report being limited in social participation activities.

This number is even higher in Michigan, where 19 percent of adults with arthritis are limited in their ability to participate in social activities.

The symptoms associated with arthritis can cause people to limit activities such as shopping, going to the movies or sporting events, visiting friends, attending clubs or meetings, and more.

Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) workshops are proven to help adults with arthritis feel better, be in control of their health, and do the things they want to do.

Personal Action Toward Health workshops are six weeks long, typically have 12-16 participants, and are appropriate for anyone dealing with a long-term health condition.

Caregivers are also encouraged to participate. Workshops are led by two trained leaders, at least one of whom has a chronic condition.

“World Arthritis Day is a great opportunity for individuals with arthritis in Michigan to learn about the PATH program and all that it offers to patients and their caregivers,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

“Arthritis can feel very limiting, and the PATH program is designed to help patients feel empowered to address those limits and regain time and activities they enjoy with family and friends,” Dr. Davis said.

PATH workshops are offered in communities throughout Michigan and are usually free of charge. For more information on PATH workshops in the Upper Peninsula, contact Tonya LaFave at Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP) Services Inc. in Escanaba at (906) 786-4701 or e-mail her at

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention answers some common questions about arthritis.

What is arthritis?

The word arthritis actually means joint inflammation, but the term has acquired a wider meaning. In public health, arthritis is used as a shorthand term for arthritis and other rheumatic conditions-a label for the more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that affect joints, the tissues which surround joints and other connective tissue. The pattern, severity, and location of symptoms can vary depending on the specific form of the disease. Typically, rheumatic conditions are characterized by pain and stiffness in and around one or more joints.

Who is at risk for arthritis?

Certain factors are associated with a greater risk of arthritis. Some of these risk factors are modifiable while others are not.

Non-modifiable risk factors include:

– Age: The risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.

– Gender: Most types of arthritis are more common in women; 60 percent of the people with arthritis are women. Gout is more common in men.

– Genetic: Specific genes are associated with a higher risk of certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and ankylosing spondylitis.

Modifiable risk factors include:

– Overweight and Obesity: Excess weight can contribute to both the onset and progression of knee osteoarthritis.

– Joint Injuries: Damage to a joint can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in that joint.

– Infection: Many microbial agents can infect joints and potentially cause the development of various forms of arthritis.

– Occupation: Certain occupations involving repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.

What causes arthritis?

Elevated uric acid levels cause gout, and specific infections can cause certain forms of arthritis. The causes of many of the other forms of arthritis are unknown. Scientists are studying the role of factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment in the various types of arthritis.

What are the most common types of arthritis?

The most common form of arthritis in the Unites States is osteoarthritis followed by gout, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

The pattern and location of symptoms can vary depending on the type of arthritis. Generally, people with arthritis feel pain and stiffness in and around one or more joints. The onset of arthritis symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Arthritis is most often a chronic disease, so symptoms may come and go, or persist over time.

What should I do if I think I have arthritis?

If you have pain, stiffness, or swelling in or around one or more of your joints, talk to your doctor. It is important to keep in mind that there are many forms of arthritis, and a specific diagnosis of the type you have may help to direct the proper treatment. Although there is no cure for most types of arthritis, early diagnosis and appropriate management are important, especially for inflammatory types of arthritis.

Can I prevent arthritis?

Depending on the form of arthritis, there are steps that can be taken to reduce your risk of arthritis. Maintaining an appropriate body weight has been shown to decrease the risk of developing osteoarthritis and gout. Protecting your joints from injuries or overuse can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Diagnosing arthritis often requires a detailed medical history of current and past symptoms, physical examination, x-rays, and blood work. It is possible to have more than one form of arthritis at the same time.