October 12 has been observed as World Arthritis Day since 1996. Initiated by Arthritis and Rheumatism International (ARI) and managed by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), this global campaign aims at raising awareness about rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs), supporting people living with RMDs, and also influencing public policy.
This year’s theme, “It’s in your hands, take action”, is a message for caregivers, healthcare professionals, policy-makers, researchers and the general public to use every opportunity to take action and make a difference to the quality of life of people with RMDs.
Arthritis can affect men, women and children. About 350 million people worldwide have arthritis. More than 50 million persons in the U.S. are affected by this chronic disease and it is the number one cause of disability among Americans.
There are more than 100 different forms of arthritis and related diseases. The most common types include osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), fibromyalgia and gout. Common arthritis symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.
Laboratory blood tests are valuable tools to diagnose arthritis, monitor treatment, and track disease activity. Rheumatologists typically order blood tests to help confirm or exclude a clinical diagnosis. No blood test can definitively prove or rule out a diagnosis of RA, but a number of tests can show possible indications of the condition. Tests used include:
- RA Factor
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate “ESR”
- C-reactive protein “CRP”
- ANA (Antinuclear Antibody) Test
- Full blood count
Physical exams and imaging tests (X-rays, MRI and ultrasound scan) are also used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.
Monitoring of blood tests is an important element in the medical care for arthritis patients. For most people with RA, early treatment and dedicated follow-up can control joint pain and swelling, and lessen joint damage. Proper exercise and diet are also key elements in managing the condition.
EULAR encourages individuals and organizations around the world to take up ideas and programs presented on its website and further develop them into national campaigns and activities related to World Arthritis Day. In many countries, events are ongoing throughout the year.