Biggest Arthritis Myths Busted

ABCNews.com—February 15, 2012

About 50 million Americans are living with some type of arthritis, but despite how common a condition it is, many people -- even some who are diagnosed with it -- hold beliefs about arthritis that experts say aren't true.

Misconceptions about who's most likely to develop arthritis and what foods sufferers should avoid are both common, along with several others.

Doctors who specialize in arthritis treatment set the record straight about arthritis and debunk some long-held myths.

Only Old People Get Arthritis

"That is a really common one, and arthritis obviously doesn't happen only to older people," said Dr. Vivian Bykerk, assistant attending rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. "It can happen to 1- and 2-year-olds, it can happen to 90-year-olds and to anyone in between."

"The reason people think this is that osteoarthritis tends to happen in older people," said Bykerk.

The types of arthritis characterized by joint inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, can happen at any age.

Certain Vegetables Can Make Arthritis Worse

Another common myth is that nightshade vegetables, which include potatoes, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, can exacerbate arthritis symptoms. The belief is that a chemical in these vegetables can cause too much calcium to build up in the body, damaging the joints.

But doctors say there's not a lot of scientific evidence to back up that claim.

Recent studies, however, found that nightshade vegetables may actually help keep symptoms in check.

"A nutritious diet may help health in general," said Bykerk

There's Not Much People Can Do to Treat Arthritis

"No one should ever be told, 'It's just arthritis,' or that they should just live with it," said Bykerk.

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are many available options to alleviate symptoms so people can lead normal lives.

There are also numerous remedies available for osteoarthritis, including anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

"If it's an advanced case, there are surgical options such as joint replacements," said Bykerk. "Having a total hip replacement is a relatively easy surgery, and many people do quite well. If there's a knee or hip that people are too scared to get replaced, health can go downhill pretty quickly if it's not dealt with."

Bykerk added that there are more than 130 different types of arthritis, so the first step toward improving quality of life is to see a specialist and identify what type of arthritis a person has to determine the best treatment options.

"It's a rare person whom we can't get feeling better," she said.

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Exercise Is Bad for Arthritis Sufferers

It's definitely false that exercise can be harmful for people arthritis, say the experts.

"It's better to be active," Bykerk said. "Studies have clearly shown that people that do their best to go on with their daily lives do better than those who lie in bed."

Avoiding activity can actually be harmful, she added, because it can lead to muscle loss.

Running may be painful for some people with osteoarthritis, so swimming or cycling may be better, Bykerk said.

Read the full story at abcnews.com.

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