For a disease that affects millions around the world, it’s surprising how arthritis can still be plagued by so many misconceptions. For starters, arthritis may commonly manifest as joint pain and inflammation, but these aren’t the only symptoms that indicate you could be suffering from it. Extreme fatigue, psoriasis, even mouth ulcers could be indicators that you’re suffering from any one (or a combination) of the 200 different kinds of arthritis.
The truth is, arthritis is a lot more than stiff hands and knees. It doesn’t just affect old people. And it’s a condition that is often underestimated, and ultimately, ignored.
So in the interest of shedding much needed light into this debilitating but misunderstood illness, here are some hard truths about condition that you should know about:
- While osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common kinds of arthritis, there are actually hundreds of different forms. Regardless of which kind you suffer from, a report from Arthritis Research UK notes that 8 out 10 of arthritis sufferers report experiencing pain most days, while nearly 6 out of 10 suffer with it every day.
- It’s common for a lot of sufferers to have to give up careers due to their condition. In addition to the stiff joints, extreme pain, and inflammation, sleepless nights are common for sufferers—whether it’s because the pain keeps them up at night, or their medication interferes with their sleep, or their illness is causing them anxiety. Whatever the case, this causes extreme fatigue that exacerbates their pain, creating a vicious cycle.
- Arthritis takes a toll on family life and personal relationships. Fatigue can make it difficult for sufferers to be there for their loved ones physically. It tends to make sufferers withdraw from their closest family and friends on the assumption that their condition is too much for anyone to handle. As a result, most sufferers tend to isolate themselves from people when they need it the most.
- Arthritis can affect anyone. Granted it’s more common among older age groups, but it can strike anyone, at any age.
- Arthritis isn’t always visible, but that doesn’t mean that the pain isn’t real. The pain and stiffness that is commonly associated with the illness affects mobility and dexterity. This limits sufferers from completing even the simplest of tasks, like buttoning a shirt of getting out of bed.
- Exercise may seem counterintuitive when your joints are aching, but moving the joint helps strengthen it and the muscle surrounding it.
The realities of living with arthritis—a condition that is experienced by so many—continues to be misunderstood, even to this day. And this usually leads to sufferers dealing with the condition, and all the challenges that come with it, in silence.
As a largely invisible disease, it’s easy for others to dismiss it. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Talk about it, let loved ones know what you’re going through, share anecdotes about what it’s really like to live with this condition, find communities where you can openly talk about shared experiences.
On that note, what reality about arthritis do want to share that you think the world should recognize? Add it in the comment section below.