BlueStar - rheumatoid arthritis hands

Arthritis affects about 1 in 4 American adults, but about 1 in 3 veterans has arthritis, making it a leading cause of disability in the United States and one of the most common chronic conditions in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arthritis isn’t just one disease. In fact, the term “arthritis” refers to more than 100  diseases and conditions affecting the joints, the most common type being osteoarthritis. Symptoms include pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in or around the joints. Veterans with arthritis can reduce their symptoms in several ways, but many don’t know how.

Resources for Veterans with Arthritis

BlueStar - PT arthritisThe Arthritis Foundation provides daily living tools and resources to help conquer arthritis as well as avenues to make connections with others in the arthritis community. One proven way to improve the quality of life of veterans with arthritis is to join a self-management education program, such as the Arthritis Self-Management Program. The six-week course covers everything from managing the physical and psychological effects of arthritis and communicating effectively with family, friends and health professionals to exercising and using medications appropriately and maintaining healthy nutrition and sleep habits.

Physical therapists are also excellent resources for veterans with arthritis. Physical therapists help address functional limitations, develop home exercise programs, and meet needs for knee braces or assistive devices that can help with daily tasks. Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system can find the physical therapist at their VA medical center.

New Treatments for Arthritis

In addition to physical activity and weight management help to improve pain and function for veterans with arthritis, arthritis can be managed with clinical therapies, such as medicines. To improve the quality of life for veterans with arthritis, VA researchers are developing new clinical treatments that reduce veterans’ disabilities and improve the ability of VA clinicians to provide effective care for patients with arthritis.

A recent VA study tested an anti-inflammatory drug on mice that may someday have the effect of reversing bone loss in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In 2014, VA researchers received the Lee C. Howley Sr. Prize for Arthritis Scientific Research for determining that less expensive anti-rheumatic drugs worked as well as newer, more expensive, biological treatments.

For more information on VA studies on arthritis and other key topics relating to veterans’ health, visit www.research.va.gov/topics.

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