May Is National Arthritis Awareness Month

VBCR - April 2016, Vol 5, No 2 - Rheumatology Update
Sophie Granger

In the United States, arthritis is a leading cause of disability, a common cause of chronic pain, and affects more than 1 in every 5 American adults.1 May is National Arthritis Awareness month, and rheumatologists, nurses, and other healthcare providers should take the opportunity of this campaign by helping their patients understand their condition, learn facts about arthritis, and gain access to relevant resources.

Common Types of Arthritis

Take time to speak with your patients about their condition. Start with basic information, such as the fact that arthritis comes in many forms, and 2 of the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.2 Generally associated with aging, osteoarthritis often affects the fingers, knees, and hips, and can result from an injury to a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis affects joints and bones—often in the hands and feet—and occurs in patients whose body’s own defense systems aren’t working properly. Gout is another common type of arthritis that generally affects the big toe, and is caused by a buildup of crystals in joints.

It is not uncommon for patients with lupus, or who experience an infection that affects a joint or destroys the cushions between bones, to also have arthritis.

Although treatments for arthritis may involve medication, surgery, and nonpharmacologic therapies (eg, physical therapy, patient education, splints), it is important that patients partake in self-management of their arthritis symptoms.3

Taking a Stand Against Arthritis

There are many self-management activities that patients can do to alleviate the damage arthritis inflicts on their joints, internal organs, and skin from getting worse, and which may also help them feel better.2 These include trying to keep their weight down, exercising (eg, going for a walk every day), taking medications as directed, taking warm showers each morning, and regularly visiting their physician.

In addition, patients, their families, and healthcare providers can raise awareness of—and funds for a cure to—arthritis by promoting information about the condition and its management from reputable organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and the Arthritis Foundation.4

Notably, the Arthritis Foundation holds annual 5K walk events—Walk to Cure Arthritis and the Jingle Bell Run/Walk—in multiple cities throughout the United States to raise awareness of and funds to benefit arthritis research and finding a cure for the condition.5,6

People can also get involved by making donations, attending events and fundraisers and taking the time to learn more about arthritis advocacy efforts, and the scientific research being carried out in an effort to find a cure.7


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis. Updated March 11, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  2. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Living with arthritis: health information basics for you and your family. Published July 2014. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis management. Updated March 2, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis awareness month—May 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64:445.
  5. Arthritis Foundation. Walk to Cure Arthritis. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  6. Arthritis Foundation. Jingle Bell Run/Walk. Accessed March 28, 2016.
  7. Arthritis Foundation. May is National Arthritis Awareness month. Accessed March 28, 2016.
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Last modified: May 27, 2016
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