"I think you just learn to live with it," says Charlene Gerlach. She has been dealing with pain in her hands and back for several years now. She finally saw a specialist last year and found out what she already suspected.
"There's really no cartilage space left and the thumb has essentially slid off the bone," says Dr. Richard Jimenez. He is the research director and president of the Seattle Arthritis Clinic.
Charlene has Osteoarthritis. There are actually more than a hundred kinds so arthritis. In Osteoarthritis, the most common, the cartilage the covers the ends of the bones in your joints wears out.
"We get blamed for pushing pills," says Jimenez, "but a lot of what we do is teaching people how to take care of themselves better."
The Jingle Bell Run is the biggest fundraiser for the Arthritis Foundation. The event raised money and awareness this chilly December. Cold weather can make you feel worse, but D. Jimenez says many of the key factors are often things you can control:
"Not only is society getting older but it's getting heavier," he says.
Obesity is a leading factor. For every pound you gain, you add three pounds of pressure to your knees, and six times the pressure on your hips.
Injuries that don't heal properly can lead to arthritis, as can overusing a joint.
Genetics is a factor. For example, women tend to naturally have looser joints.
"It's like loosening the bolts in your car and then driving around. You're going to rattle the parts around more," he explains.
Weak muscles can do it too, but that's why Jimenez says, despite some pain, exercise is critical--and getting the right diagnosis.
While Osteoarthritis affects cartilage, more than a million people-especially women-get what's called Rheumatoid Arthritis.
"Rheumatoid arthritis is your immune system has gone haywire in a sense attacking you," says Dr. Jimenez.
Charlene says despite a serious case of Osteoarthritis, exercise, medication and surgery should make a big difference in how she lives the rest of her life.
"You don't have to just live with it you can live better with it," she says.
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