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Surge in arthritis on the way
May 13, 2007
Wall Street Journal
public-health officials are predicting a surge in the prevalence of
arthritis and other rheumatic conditions by the year 2030, and popular
retirement states such as Florida, Arizona and California are likely to
bear the brunt of the burden.
About 46 million U.S. adults currently
have arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia and other rheumatic conditions,
resulting in $128 billion in medical expenses as well as indirect costs
such as lost productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. That amount is equal to about 1.2 percent of the 2003
U.S. gross domestic product, the CDC says.
Now, an aging population, expanding
waistlines and low levels of physical activity are likely to push the
number of affected people up 46 percent to about 67 million people by
2030, or about 25 percent of the projected population, according to the
CDC. Most of the increase will come from those who develop age-related
degeneration of joints in the hip, knee, or elsewhere. An estimated 25
million will be in enough pain that they will have trouble moving
around, the CDC says.
The CDC estimates raise concerns about the
toll that arthritis could take on the nation's health-care systems. In
Arizona, the CDC estimates that arthritis cases will rise 87 percent,
or by a million people. Florida, which currently has 3.7 million
arthritis sufferers, is expected to have 6.3 million. California, which
now has 5.9 million people with arthritis, will see its total mushroom
to an estimated 7.9 million.
whose populations are expected to age considerably by 2030, such as
Nevada, Texas and Utah, are also likely to see large percentage
increases in the number of residents they have with arthritis, the CDC
says. Arthritis cases are expected to jump more than 30 percent in 13
The CDC says it hasn't projected the
potential cost of the epidemic in 2030. "We're very reluctant to make
projections because the health-care system is so dynamic and changing,"
says Chad Helmick, a medical epidemiologist with the agency's arthritis
Still, the consequences of a ballooning
epidemic are huge, says Patience White, chief public-health officer for
the Atlanta-based Arthritis Foundation. "The fact here is it's causing
an increasing number of activity limitations," she says. "People cannot
live on their own, and the whole push today is to keep people's
While many arthritis patients take
medication for their pain, public-health officials are pushing
physical-activity programs as a longer-term solution both for those
with arthritis and those at risk — particularly older, overweight
adults. Only 11 percent of adults with arthritis have taken classes to
learn to manage their arthritis, Dr. Helmick says. The CDC funds
programs in 36 states that promote physical activity and weight
reduction to help alleviate pain.
"If you lose 15 pounds or so, you can cut
your pain in half," says Dr. White. The disease won't progress as
quickly, either, she says.
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