Arthritis: What Every Black Person Should Know

An xray of of leg, ankle and toe joints with red pain markers.Joint pain, arthritis and other musculoskeletal health issues are rapidly disabling America. Arthritis, for example, is the single greatest cause of chronic pain and disability among Americans. The impact however, is worse among two segments of the population: African Americans and women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that severe joint pain, activity and work limitations due to arthritis were significantly higher among these groups in comparison to the rest of the population

…and this health crisis is getting worse.

Last year, various national health surveys demonstrated that African-Americans disproportionally bear the burden of impaired daily living affected by arthritis and related disabilities. Additionally, arthritis increases the chances for comorbidity in African-Americans. These diseases include diabetes, heart disease and obesity–medical conditions that can be improved with physical activity.

“The physical and economic burden of arthritic pain and disability is an important connecting thread in the dialogue about health disparities among women and racial/ethnic minorities, yet it is not being widely discussed,” said Charles Nelson M.D, assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a steering committee member at the caucus.

An estimated 4.6 million African Americans are living with arthritis.

Arthritis in the United States

• Arthritis affects 50 million adults in the United States, making it one of the most prevalent health conditions among U.S. adults and the most common cause of disability.

• Eighty percent of Americans either have or know someone with arthritis and the numbers continue to escalate.

• Arthritis costs the nation more than $128 billion a year in medical care and lost earnings in 2003.

• The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA), impacts 27 million Americans.

• Obesity accelerates the onset of arthritis, 70 percent of obese adults with mild knee OA at sixty will develop advanced end-stage disease by the age of 80.

• Obesity and other chronic health conditions exacerbate the debilitating impact of arthritis, leading to inactivity, loss of independence, and perpetuating a cycle of chronic conditions.

• The prevalence of physical inactivity was highest among those with both arthritis and obesity (22.7%) when compared with arthritis only (16.1%) obesity only (13.5%) and neither condition (9.4%).

• Obesity prevalence among adults with arthritis (35.2%) is significantly higher than adults with no arthritis (23.6%).

• One in five Americans suffer from doctor-diagnosed arthritis, but the impact is worse among three segments of the population. African-Americans and women experience more severe joint pain, activity and work limitation due to arthritis.

Disparities Among African-Americans

• African-Americans and Hispanics were 1.3 times more likely to have activity limitation; 1.6 times more likely to have work limitations, and 1.9 times more likely to have severe joint pain than Whites.

• African-Americans, compared to Whites, report a higher proportion of work limitations (39.5% vs. 28%) and a higher prevalence of arthritis-attributable work limitation (6.6% vs. 4.6%).

• African-Americans have a higher prevalence of knee symptoms, radiographic knee osteoarthritis and symptomatic knee osteoarthritis than Whites.

• White men were 2 to 5 times more likely to undergo total knee replacement and 2 to 3 times more likely to undergo total hip replacement than African-American men.

• In 2000, African-American Medicare enrollees were 37 percent less likely than White Medicare enrollees to undergo total knee replacements. In 2006, the disparity increased to 39 percent.

• Even after adjusting for insurance and health access, African Americans are almost 50 percent less likely to undergo total knee replacement than Whites.

• African-Americans are more likely to use praying and hoping as a primary means to manage their osteoarthritis pain than Whites.

• When it comes to the uptake of proven medical treatments for OA, such as total joint replacement (TJR), differences in perceptions contribute to a situation in which African-Americans are less likely than Whites to have heard of TJR as a treatment for OA or to have had a family member or friend who had benefited from TJR.

• Due to higher rates of obesity and routinely delayed utilization of surgical interventions, African-American patients have worse preoperative hip and knee function before arthroplasty than White patients.

• Non-Hispanic Blacks have the highest rates of obesity (44.1%) compared with Mexican Americans (39.3%), all Hispanics (37.9%) and non-Hispanic whites (32.6%)

If you have questions about arthritis pain, or to find out if you suffer from arthritis at all, be sure to visit your doctor.

For more information about how to recognize and live with arthritis, visit BDO’s Arthritis Channel.

For more information on musculoskeletal health disparities, please visit Movement Is Life.