This week is National Public Health Week, and Arizona rheumatologists and other care providers across the country are raising awareness about public health and promoting healthy living.
The role Arizona arthritis plays when it comes to public health is extensive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 26.2% of all Arizona adults had some form of arthritis in 2018. This is higher than the national prevalence of 23.7%. That means 1 in 4 adults in Arizona has some form of arthritis, including gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. And given the recent real estate boom over the past 2-3 years, the population, and the number of individuals in Arizona with arthritis, has likely grown.
So how does arthritis affect Arizona public health as a whole? It comes down to risk factors, the impact on our health systems, and quality of life.
Am I at risk for arthritis?
Arthritis is a group of diseases that cause inflammation and damage to the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and psoriatic arthritis.
Arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 and over, which accounts for a significant portion of Arizona’s population (around 18%). In Arizona, over 50% of this age group reported having arthritis in 2018. 
However, arthritis can affect people of all ages, including young adults and children. In fact, Arizona arthritis diagnoses are on the rise in younger age groups. It can be hard to determine the exact number of affected individuals, as many cases of arthritis go unreported or undiagnosed. According to a study by the Boston University School of Medicine, it is estimated that nearly 30% of people aged 18-64 have arthritis in the U.S.
How does Arizona arthritis impact public health?
So what do these rising numbers mean when it comes to public health?
More than 54 million adults in the US have arthritis, and it costs the economy billions of dollars each year in medical expenses and lost productivity (through disability, missing work, and injuries). Apart from medical costs and time out of work, arthritis is also a leading factor in nursing home placement in elder Americans. With the average annual cost of an Arizona nursing home coming in at around $80,000, that’s no small expense.
But the impact doesn’t stop at our wallets—it is putting additional stress on our hospitals and health care providers. The number of available Arizona arthritis and rheumatology specialists are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for Arizona arthritis care. By 2040, the number of adults with arthritis is expected to increase by 49%, reaching 78.4 million. The rise in demand will exceed the anticipated availability of rheumatologists, which is projected to decline by 25% by the year 2030.
How does arthritis impact quality of life?
People with arthritis face several challenges that impact their quality of life, including pain, fatigue, and mobility issues. They may also experience depression and anxiety, social isolation, and decreased participation in activities they enjoy. Arthritis can also increase the risk of other chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, largely in part because people who have painful arthritis tend to be less active.
75% of participants in an arthritis pain study by the Arthritis Foundation reported experiencing pain that moderately interfered with their daily lives, while a staggering 90% said they experienced some level of disruption due to pain or discomfort.
Dr. Brittany Panico, DO of Summit Rheumatology emphasizes the substantial impact untreated Arizona arthritis patients can experience in their daily lives:
“Arthritis can lead to significant joint pain, possibly joint damage, and overall disability depending on the underlying cause. It is important to recognize what type of arthritis a person has, and a rheumatologist can help discuss treatment options to help keep that person healthy and participating in activities such as daily self-care, work, and things they enjoy.”
Early arthritis detection and treatment
Early detection of arthritis is critical to improving outcomes, managing pain, and reducing the overall burden of healthcare expenses. In many cases, arthritis can be treated effectively if diagnosed and treated early. Early diagnosis allows for prompt initiation of appropriate treatments that can prevent joint damage and disability.
Arthritis is typically diagnosed in-clinic with a combination of physical exams, lab tests, and imaging like X-rays, CT, or MRI. However, telemedicine has the potential to help people with arthritis manage their condition from the comfort of their homes. Telemedicine can facilitate remote consultations with rheumatologists and enable patients to access care and education from a distance.
The rise of telemedicine could prove to be particularly beneficial for Arizona arthritis patients who live in rural or remote areas or who have difficulty traveling due to mobility issues. Telemedicine can also help patients to monitor their symptoms and communicate with their healthcare providers, allowing for early detection of flares and timely interventions to prevent joint damage.
The link between arthritis and diet
Food and nutrition are also important considerations when it comes to managing arthritis and reducing the public health burden. Diet can influence the risk of developing arthritis and the severity of symptoms. A healthy diet that includes anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, can help to reduce inflammation and improve joint health. In contrast, a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats can contribute to inflammation and exacerbate symptoms of arthritis.
In addition to diet, weight management is also key. Being overweight or obese puts added stress on the joints, increasing the risk of joint damage and disability. Weight loss can reduce joint pain and improve physical function in people with arthritis, making it an important public health concern.
The advancement in Arizona arthritis research, treatment, and prevention is encouraging, but there is more to be done to better manage chronic pain and staggering costs. By working together, healthcare providers, public health professionals, and community organizations can help to promote healthy living and improve outcomes for people with arthritis.
If you or someone you know struggles with arthritis, Summit Rheumatology is accepting new patients. Call (480) 494-2770 or contact us to schedule an appointment.