Advocacy / Arthritis / Arthritis Foundation / Awareness / Juvenile Arthritis / Uncategorized / Wellness

The Very Merry Month of May: Arthritis & Lupus Awareness – by Ashley Boynes

May is both Arthritis Awareness and Lupus Awareness Month in the United States.

Let’s take advantage of this fact in order to spread the word and to educate others about these conditions. Stumped on how to spread awareness? Increasing education and visibility are key. By improving upon these areas, we can further spread awareness, which can eventually, hopefully, lead to change: more recognition, better care, and an eventual cure!

So let your voices be heard! Advocate, volunteer, do whatever it takes to help raise arthritis and lupus awareness, not just in the month of May but always!

Here are some facts that are pertinent to share:

  • Arthritis is far from a new disease.  In fact, many researchers believe it has been a part of civilization since the beginning of time, even affecting dinosaurs millions of years ago.  Researchers also believe that skeletal remains from humans living around 4500 B.C. show signs of the disease. 
  • Did you know that the word arthritis literally means joint inflammation?  That’s right, the word arthritis comes from the Greek words for joint (arthro) and inflammation (-itis)
  • There are over 100 forms of conditions that are considered or related to arthritis, including little talked about diseases like Kawasaki disease, which involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and Sweet’s syndrome, which is a skin condition marked by fever and painful skin lesions.
  • Were you aware that arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States?  According to the CDC, arthritis and rheumatic conditions cost the U.S. economy $128 billion annually and result in 44 million outpatient visits and 9,367 deaths each year.
  • Movement is one of the best treatment options for arthritis and can help most people prevent the onset of the disease in the first place. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports that strong evidence indicates both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits for persons with osteoarthritis (OA) and other rheumatic conditions.
  • Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is a chronic condition that affects some 27 million Americans. OA is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, which can cause stiffness and pain.
  • There are two types of OA – primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is generally associated with aging and the “wear and tear” of life. The older you are, the more likely you are to have some degree of primary osteoarthritis. Secondary osteoarthritis, in contrast, tends to develop relatively early in life, typically 10 or more years after a specific cause, such as an injury or obesity.
  • Did you know that children get arthritis too?  Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are living with juvenile arthritis.  Juvenile arthritis (JA) refers to any form of arthritis or an arthritis-related condition that develops in children or teenagers who are less than 18 years of age.
  • Juvenile arthritis is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, occurring nearly as often as insulin-dependent juvenile diabetes.  The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), which has two peaks of onset: between 1 and 3 years of age and between 8 and 12 years of age.
  • Arthritis is more common among women (24.9%) than men (18.1%), and girls are twice as likely to develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as boys.
  • Lupus shares many similarities with arthritis. Like some forms of arthritis, it is an unpredictable condition. Some cases of lupus are potentially life-threatening.
  • Lupus affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans.
  • Systemic lupus or SLE is the most common type of lupus. Systemic lupus can affect any organ system of the body, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, blood, joints, and skin.
  •  In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu).The result is the production of autoantibodies that attack healthy tissue. This is also how other autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis act.
  • Most people with lupus will experience joint pain without swelling. Although people with lupus can have arthritis, and vice versa, lupus is not technically a form of arthritis despite being a “related” rheumatic condition.
  • Do not let the word “autoimmune” fool you. Lupus is not related to HIV/AIDS….nor are most autoimmune conditions. In lupus, the immune system is overactive, while in HIV or AIDS, the immune system is underactive.
  • Discoid lupus erythematosus is another type of lupus that causes a skin rash.
  • There are also other less common types of Lupus aside from SLE and Discoid. These are  Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus—causes skin sores on parts of the body exposed to sun; Drug-induced lupus—can be caused by medication and Neonatal lupus—a rare type of lupus that affects newborns.
  • Anyone can get lupus, but it most often affects women. Lupus is also more common in women of African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent than in Caucasian women.
  • Pregnancy in women with lupus is considered high risk, but most women with lupus carry their babies safely. Lupus can flare during pregnancy or can go into temporary remission. Lupus is not directly passed on from mother to child. It is not genetic in that sense. 
  • A common signpost of lupus is the “butterfly rash” across one’s face. Hence, butterflies have become a kind of “mascot” for “lupies” everywhere.

Now that you are armed with all of this information, what can you do? The best thing that you can do if you or someone you know has one of these conditions is to educate others. Ignorance can cause lack of understanding and can cause others to form misconceptions about those of us living with these types of chronic illnesses. We want our voices to be heard, and we want others to know what we are going through. So please, during the month of May, contemplate how you can help raise awareness in the hopes of someday finding a cure!

Rheumatic diseases and arthritis in its many forms is unacceptable – so let’s move together towards health, wellness, and optimal awareness during this very merry month of May!

Thanks for reading…

Stay well,

Ashley Boynes

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