Arthritis is very common but not well understood. Actually, “arthritis” is not a single disease; it is an informal way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis (see Appendix) and related conditions. People of all ages, genders and races have arthritis, the leading cause of disability in the United States. We don’t know the true number of people with arthritis because many people don’t seek treatment until their symptoms become severe. Conservative estimates only include those who report they have doctor diagnosed arthritis, indicating that about 54 million adults and almost 300,000 children “officially” have arthritis or another type of rheumatic disease. A recent study says as many as 91 million Americans may really have arthritis – when you add together those who are officially diagnosed plus those who report obvious symptoms but haven’t been diagnosed.
While researchers try to find more accurate ways to estimate the prevalence of this disease and the burdens it causes, we do know that it is more common among women and that the number of people of all ages with arthritis is increasing.