Arthritis affects 54.4 million US adults, more than 1 of 4. It is a leading cause of disability in the United States and one of the most common chronic conditions in the nation. Arthritis is a common cause of chronic pain.
The CDC combined data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) years 2013-2015 Sample Adult Core components to estimate average annual arthritis prevalence in the civilian, non-institutionalized US adult population aged 18 years or older. Overall, an estimated 22.7% (54.4 million) of adults had doctor-diagnosed arthritis, with significantly higher age-adjusted prevalence in women (23.5%) than in men (18.1%). Arthritis prevalence increased with age.
The impact of arthritis on individuals is significant. About 43.5% (23.7 million) of the 54.4 million adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis have limitations in their usual activities due to their arthritis.
Arthritis Prevalence by Physical Activity Levels
The age-adjusted prevalence of arthritis among adults reporting no leisure time physical activity (23.6%) is significantly higher than the prevalence of arthritis among adults who report meeting physical activity recommendations (18.1%). Arthritis can be a barrier to physical activity, and inactivity is associated with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and functional limitations.
Future Arthritis Burden
With the aging of the US population, the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis is expected to increase in the coming decades. By the year 2040, an estimated 78.4 million (25.9% of the projected total adult population) adults aged 18 years and older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, compared with the 54.4 million adults in 2013-2015. Two-thirds of those with arthritis will be women. Also by 2040, an estimated 34.6 million adults (43.2% of adults with arthritis or 11.4% of all US adults) will report arthritis-attributable activity limitations.2 These estimates may be conservative, as they do not account for the current trends in obesity, which may contribute to future cases of osteoarthritis.
National Arthritis Prevalence Projections
Figure 1. Estimated and Projected Number of Adults with Doctor-Diagnosed Arthritis in the United States
Data Source: 2013-2015 National Health Interview Survey
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. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Certain rheumatic conditions can also involve the immune system and various internal organs of the body.
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
- Age: The risk of developing most types of arthritis increases with age.
- Gender: Most types of arthritis are more common in women; 60% 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
- 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 specific forms of arthritis.
- Occupation: Certain occupations involving repetitive knee bending and squatting are associated with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Elevated uric acid levels cause gout, and specific infections can cause certain forms of arthritis. For many forms of arthritis, the cause is unknown. Scientists are studying the role of factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment in the various types of arthritis
The most common form of arthritis in the Unites States is osteoarthritis followed by gout, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid 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.
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. The earlier you understand your arthritis, the earlier you can start managing your disease and making healthy lifestyle changes to help your 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.
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.
The focus of treatment for arthritis is to control pain, minimize joint damage, and improve or maintain function and quality of life. In inflammatory types of arthritis, it is also important to control inflammation. According to the American College of Rheumatology, the treatment of arthritis might involve the following:
- Nonpharmacologic therapies.
- Physical or occupational therapy.
- Splints or joint assistive aids.
- Patient education and support.
- Weight loss.
In conjunction with medical treatment, self-management of arthritis symptoms is very important as well. The Arthritis Self-Management Program and the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, both developed by Dr. Kate Lorig of Stanford University, are effective self-management education programs. These programs help people develop the confidence and skills needed to manage their arthritis on a day to day basis.
The The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, EnhanceFitness®, Fit & Strong!, and Walk with Ease are all examples of programs designed to help people with arthritis increase their physical activity. For management of specific types of arthritis, refer to Arthritis Types.
Both medical treatment and self-management strategies are very important. The Arthritis Self-Management Program and the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, both developed by Dr. Kate Lorig of Stanford University, are effective self-management education programs. These programs help people learn the techniques needed to manage their arthritis on a day to day basis and gain the confidence to carry it out.
Physical activity can also help reduce pain. Programs like Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program and EnhanceFitness® can help can help you safely increase yours physical activity.