What Canadians Need to Know this September for Arthritis Awareness Month

Sources Arthritis Research Canada and The Arthritis Society

Arthritis impacts six million Canadians of ALL ages, including children. There are over 100 different forms of the disease. It costs the economy an estimated $33 billion per year and leads to more deaths than HIV/Aids, melanoma and asthma.

Arthritis is often invisible to those who don’t have it and is much more serious than most think. It is also plagued by misconceptions – like the belief that arthritis only involves minor aches and pains and only impacts older people.

Arthritis Is Canada’s Most Prevalent Health Condition

1 in 5 Canadians live with Arthritis – Arthritis is a serious disease that can have devastating impacts on people’s lives. As the most common long-term health condition in Canada, it places a tremendous burden on the healthcare system and Canadian society at large, as well as the 6 million Canadians who must live with its effects, and their caregivers, families and friends. It is estimated that as many as 24,000 Canadian children aged 18 and under live with a form of arthritis.

Arthritis is the number one cause of long term disability in Canada

In Canada, arthritis is more common in women than men (1 in 4 women, compared to 1 in 6 men). It can strike people of any age. While it becomes more common at older ages, over half of Canadians with arthritis are younger than 65. Arthritis is a leading cause of disability and work limitations in Canada. Over half of working-aged Canadians with arthritis report that they are not in the workforce – twice the proportion of those without arthritis.

Arthritis Is Serious

Arthritis is a term used to describe a group of over 100 diseases characterized by inflammation in the joints or other areas of the body. Inflammation is a medical term that describes redness and swelling which causes pain and, when in the joints, can also cause stiffness. Left unchecked, inflammation can lead to significant and often irreparable damage to the affected areas, resulting in loss of function and disability.It’s just joint pain, it’s not serious. Autoimmune forms are systemic and can affect the entire body, including organs such as the heart, lungs, brain, skin.

Arthritis can lead to comorbidities that can be fatal. Left untreated, advanced forms of arthritis can eventually prove fatal and some forms such as diffuse scleroderma can prove fatal even with treatment. But even in moderate cases, most forms of arthritis can significantly erode your quality of life, especially if they are left undiagnosed or untreated for prolonged periods.

By 2040, the number of Canadians living with arthritis is expected to grow by 50%.

Arthritis is a serious problem in Canada, and this challenge is constantly growing. As baby boomers age and life expectancies increase, we expect arthritis to be on the rise – with major impacts on individuals, families, and the healthcare system. By 2040 the number of Canadians with arthritis will reach a staggering 9 million. The proportion of Canadians with arthritis is expected to grow from 1 in 5 today to 1 in 4 in 2040.

People with arthritis report worse general health.

Canadians with arthritis are 4 times as likely to say that their general health isn’t good, compared to those without arthritis. For many people, it’s not as simple as “just arthritis”. If you have arthritis, you’re more likely to live with other health problems than other Canadians. That can mean dealing with the symptoms of multiple chronic diseases at once, along with different treatments and side effects. 4 out of 5 Canadians with arthritis have at least one other chronic health condition like back problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, migraine, mood disorders, or anxiety disorders.

People with arthritis report worse mental health.

While arthritis compromises physical health, its impact does not stop there. Canadians with arthritis are twice as likely to say that their mental health isn’t good, compared to those without arthritis. If you have arthritis, you’re more likely to live with mood or anxiety disorders than others. Canadians with arthritis are twice as likely to have a mood disorder like depression compared to those without arthritis. They’re also more than 1.5 times as likely to have an anxiety disorder.

What are the arthritis types?

Degenerative Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. When the cartilage – the slick, cushioning surface on the ends of bones – wears away, bone rubs against bone, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Over time, joints can lose strength and pain may become chronic.

Inflammatory Arthritis

A healthy immune system is protective. It generates internal inflammation to get rid of infection and prevent disease. But the immune system can go awry, mistakenly attacking the joints with uncontrolled inflammation, potentially causing joint erosion and may damage internal organs, eyes and other parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are examples of inflammatory arthritis.

Infectious Arthritis

A bacterium, virus or fungus can enter the joint and trigger inflammation. Examples of organisms that can infect joints are salmonella and shigella (food poisoning or contamination), chlamydia and gonorrhea (sexually transmitted diseases) and hepatitis C (a blood-to-blood infection, often through shared needles or transfusions). In many cases, timely treatment with antibiotics may clear the joint infection, but sometimes the arthritis becomes chronic.

Metabolic Arthritis

Uric acid is formed as the body breaks down purines, a substance found in human cells and in many foods. Some people have high levels of uric acid because they naturally produce more than is needed or the body can’t get rid of the uric acid quickly enough. In some people the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain, or a gout attack. Gout can come and go in episodes or, if uric acid levels aren’t reduced, it can become chronic, causing ongoing pain and disability.

What Qualifies As Arthritis:

  • Adult-onset Still’s disease

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis

  • Back Pain

  • Behcet’s Disease

  • Bursitis

  • Calcium Pyrophosphate Deposition Disease (CPPD)

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Chondromalacia Patella

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

  • Cryopyrin-Associated Periodic Syndromes (CAPS)

  • Degenerative Disc Disease

  • Developmental-Dysplasia of Hip

  • Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis

  • Ehlers-Danlos

  • Familial Mediterranean Fever

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Fifth Disease

  • Giant Cell Arteritis

  • Gout

  • Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis

  • Hemochromatosis

  • Infectious Arthritis

  • Inflammatory Arthritis

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • Juvenile Arthritis

  • Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JD)

  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)

  • Juvenile Scleroderma

  • Kawasaki Disease

  • Lupus

  • Lupus in Children & Teens

  • Lyme Disease

  • Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

  • Myositis (inc. Polymyositis, Dermatomyositis)

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Osteoporosis

  • Pagets

  • Palindromic Rheumatism

  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

  • Pediatric Rheumatic Diseases

  • Pediatric SLE

  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica

  • Pseudogout

  • Psoriatic Arthritis

  • Raynaud’s Phenomenon

  • Reactive Arthritis

  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

  • Reiter’s Sydrome

  • Rheumatic Fever

  • Rheumatism

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Scleroderma

  • Sjögren’s Disease

  • Spinal Stenosis

  • Spondyloarthritis

  • Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Children & Teens

  • Systemic Sclerosis

  • Temporal Arteritis

  • Tendinitis

  • Vasculitis

Arthritis information in Canada

The Arthritis Society

Arthritis Research Canada

Joint Health

Bone and Joint Canada

Arthritis Broadcast Network

Arthritis Alliance of Canada

Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance

Canadian Rheumatology Association

Cassie and Friends

Catch Cohort Canada

Published by Chronic Eileen

Rheumatoid arthritis advocate, writer and speaker.