A disease as common as arthritis is bound to spawn some myths. Here, a look at the reality behind some commonly held beliefs:
Myth 1: Arthritis happens only to old people.
The truth: Some forms of arthritis do mainly affect elderly people, including the most common, osteoarthritis. Yet many types can affect younger people, and joint injuries at any age can lead to osteoarthritis. Currently more than half of the population with arthritis is under 65. Juvenile arthritis can begin in children as young as infants and toddlers and affects an estimated 294,000 Americans under age 18. Other forms of arthritis, mainly autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, Reiter's syndrome and ankylosing spondylitis, usually strike in middle or early adulthood.
Myth 2: It's an inevitable part of aging.
The truth: Thirty percent of people older than age 70 have no x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis, the common "wear and tear" form of the disease, according to the American College of Rheumatology. For the 70 percent of people who do show the joint deterioration of osteoarthritis in x-rays, half of them never develop symptoms.
Myth 3: Weather affects symptoms.
The truth: Many people with arthritis believe that cold and dampness can set off joint symptoms. Indeed, according to the Arthritis Foundation, nearly half of arthritis patients think they can predict the weather! Yet the studies have been inconclusive. But don't cancel your Florida vacation plans yet; milder weather may encourage people with arthritis to be more active, and that has been shown to help.