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46 Million Americans Suffer From Arthritis
Date:1/4/2008

By 2030, 40% of U.S. adults will have the condition, experts say

FRIDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Arthritic disease is the most common cause of disability in the United States and now affects 46 million Americans, or more than 21 percent of the adult population, a major new report finds.

That number is expected to rise even higher as baby boomers age, so that by 2030, 40 percent of American adults will suffer from some form of arthritic disease, the researchers said.

Today, almost two-thirds of people with arthritis are under 65, and more than 60 percent are women. The disease hits whites and blacks equally, but the rate is lower among Hispanics, according to the report.

"Arthritis remains a large and growing problem," said lead researcher Dr. Charles G. Helmick, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Cases of osteoarthritis has risen, while rheumatoid arthritis has gone down since our last estimate," he added.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful autoimmune disorder of uncertain origin leading to chronic inflammation at the joints. Osteoarthritis is a more common illness caused by a gradual breakdown of cartilage in the joints.

The reasons why there are now fewer cases of rheumatoid arthritis is unclear, Helmick said. One reason may be that experts have changed the way they estimate the number of cases. Today, they use a more specific and restrictive definition of the condition, he said. But there has been a real decreases in cases of rheumatoid arthritis worldwide, and no one is sure why, Helmick added.

The main reason that osteoarthritis is increasing is an aging population, Helmick said. "As more people age, there will be more people with osteoarthritis. That's what's driving the numbers upward," he said.

Also, the obesity epidemic in the Unites States is taking its toll, Helmick noted. "Obesity is a risk factor for knee osteoarth
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