ATLANTA, Oct 24 (Reuters) – One-third of all American adults suffer from arthritis or chronic joint problems, according to a study published on Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The survey, the first to measure arthritis prevalence directly on a state-by-state basis, revealed that an estimated 70 million people in 2001 suffered from the disease or other types of chronic joint pain, stiffness or swelling.
Arthritis causes painful inflammation in the joints. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States as well as a major financial drain on the nation’s health care system.
Although considerably higher than previous estimates, the Atlanta-based federal agency said the study’s figures did not reflect a substantial increase in arthritis or chronic joint pain prevalence. One study in 1997 estimated that 43 million adults and children suffered from arthritis.
“This new national estimate is much larger than before and in our minds does not represent an epidemic,” said Dr. Chad Helmick, an arthritis expert in the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
“It really represents a better way of capturing the people who have always been out there with arthritis and chronic joint symptoms,” Helmick said. “We’re capturing more people because we’re asking better questions.”
Respondents were classified as having arthritis if they had been diagnosed with the condition by a doctor, according to the study, which surveyed more than 200,000 people around the country by telephone.
Those who admitted having pain, stiffness or swelling in or around a joint on most days for at least a month were defined as suffering from chronic joint symptoms.
The aging of the population, poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity are usually cited by U.S. health experts as the main factors fueling higher incidence of arthritis, which is expected to rise by about 40 percent by 2020.
The CDC study found that arthritis and chronic joint problems were more common in the central and northwestern parts of the nation. West Virginia had the highest rate at 42.6 percent, while Hawaii claimed the lowest at 17.8 percent.
Women were more prone to have the disease than men and non-Hispanic whites and blacks had higher rates than Hispanics, according to the study. Arthritis and joint pain also were more common in the obese, physically inactive and poorly educated.
The CDC said it was moving ahead with programs to better inform Americans about the health problem.
It noted that a combination of proper diet, weight control, exercise and regular medical treatment were effective in controlling both the prevalence and severity of arthritis and chronic joint pain.