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Millions more might suffer from arthritis

Source: United Press International | UPI Medical Correspondent in Washington
Posted on October 24th, 2002

ATLANTA, Oct. 24 (UPI) — A new, more accurate survey suggests 27 million more American adults could be suffering from arthritis than previous estimates indicated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The new survey results put the number of arthritis sufferers at 70 million, compared with the previous estimate of 43 million, said Chad Helmick of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. He presented the new figure during a teleconference to announce findings that appear in the Oct. 25 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Helmick said though this “new national estimate is much larger than before,” it does not indicate a sudden increase in the disease. Rather it suggests the new survey method is better at capturing people who have arthritis, he said.

“These numbers are bigger numbers than before but I think we are just capturing what has always been going on,” he said.

The data were collected by a random phone survey of people 18 years or older in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Overall, about one in three adults suffers from the condition. The prevalence of arthritis in the states ranged from 17.8 percent of adults in Hawaii to 42.6 percent in West Virginia.

Statistics about those most at risk of developing arthritis did not change, Helmick said. Women, African-Americans and whites, those with low education levels, the physically inactive and the obese are more likely to suffer from the condition, he said, adding, “All groups are affected. There are no demographic groups that are unaffected by arthritis.”

As the population ages, “there will be more people in the future with arthritis and chronic joint problems,” he said.

The findings suggest people “should take these diseases more seriously,” Helmick said. He urged individuals to see a doctor as soon as possible “and get an early diagnosis because there are things you can do” to battle this illness. In addition to drugs that may help control the primary symptom of pain, people should engage in physical activity and maintain an appropriate weight, he said.