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Published on November 01, 2009

Women and Arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation, sixty percent of all people who have arthritis are female. Four of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and lupus. All of these forms are more prevalent in women than men.

Osteoarthritis causes damage to cartilage and bones and often leads to total loss of function. While it affects nearly 27 million Americans, approximately 16 million are women. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that leads to chronic inflammation of joint linings and other internal organs, affects 1.3 million American adults. Women outnumber men 2.5-to-1.

Osteoporosis is a form of arthritis that causes bones to lose mass and become brittle. It affects approximately 28 million Americans and four out of every five people affected are women. Lupus is the form of arthritis with the highest rate of affecting more women than men. Lupus is an inflammatory disease that may affect the joints, skin, kidneys and other parts of the body. Ninety percent of those with this disease are women.

While genetics plays a large role in the development of arthritis, there are a few ways to help prevent the disease, including eating healthy and exercising regularly. Women who are overweight have a higher risk of developing arthritis; and exercising may reduce wear and tear on the joints. Avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption may also help lower your risk, as both habits weaken the structure of bone.

Increasing your intake of vitamin D will help keep calcium amounts at a high level. Vitamin D can be found in milk, cheese, eggs and most fish. Finally, women who are postmenopausal may want to consider hormone replacement therapy, which supplies the body with estrogen that is no longer being produced in the ovaries. Estrogen functions to help keep calcium in the bones and maintain bone mass.

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are treatments. A cornerstone for therapy of any form of arthritis is physical and occupational therapy to maintain joint mobility and range-of-motion.

Over-the-counter drugs are often used as a first-line treatment of the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and related medicines have anti-inflammatory effects and are relatively safe.

Prescription medications, such as Humira, can be used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs control symptoms and may possibly delay progression of the disease, but many of them can also cause severe adverse effects and diminish in effectiveness over time. All treatments vary depending on each individual condition. This is why it is vital to find the right physicians, including, if necessary, an orthopedic physician and/or a rheumatologist. 

For more information about Crozer-Keystone’s orthopedic services or to find a rheumatologist or other physician, visit http://ckhshmi.crozer.org or call 1-877-CK-MOTION (1-877-256-6846). For more information on women and arthritis, visit http://www.arthritis.org.

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About Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases

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