Over the past six months, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have updated their arthritis community estimates — delivering drastically different numbers in some forms of the disease.

It is not hard to imagine the CDC preferring little fanfare for the arthritis updates. Tracking down Americans battling the disease — believed to be the nation’s most common cause of disability — is a difficult, imprecise science (the CDC creates some estimates using a randomized phone survey). Future numbers are sure to come.

Where do we stand now?

According to a study released earlier this year by the CDC for the National Arthritis Data Workgroup (NADW, a collaborative initiative involving federal and private groups):

  • “Nearly one in five U.S. adults — 46 million people — have arthritis.”
  • “The prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) has increased to 27 million people, up from the previous estimate of 21 million” — almost 30 percent higher.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is on the decline. Whereas the 1990 estimate (the latest available) listed 2.1 million Americans fighting the disease, the new estimate lists 1.3 million — an almost 40 percent decline, “due to more restrictive classification criteria but also because of a real drop in prevalence.”
  • Gout, which affects primarily men, increased from 2.1 million to 3 million.
  • Lupus affects “an estimated 161,000 to 322,000 adults.” No prior estimates were referenced.
  • Also, a second CDC study tells us that “294,000 U.S. children under age 18 (or 1 in 250 children) have been diagnosed with arthritis or another rheumatologic condition.” This is the first time such a national number has been established (“prompted by a portion of the [proposed] Arthritis Prevention, Control, and Cure Act of 2004 which called for better determining the size of the childhood arthritis problem”).

CDC Arthritis Quote

According to the CDC, by 2030 the number of Americans battling arthritis will climb to an estimated 67 million — and that accounts only for those aged 18 years and older.

“The prevalence of arthritis overall continues to grow in the United States, which is not surprising given that many of the specific conditions are age-related and the general population is aging,” said Dr. Charles Helmick, a CDC epidemiologist and a lead author on the study.

“The increases in some of the more common types of arthritis suggest that they will have a growing impact on the health care and public health systems and more efforts should be made to promote underused but effective interventions and programs that could reduce that impact.”

A non-common form of the disease, however, afflicts our bravest — those battling juvenile arthritis.

Unlike adults, they have not had many years to take so-called “effective interventions.”

“Study data … show that children diagnosed with arthritis and other rheumatologic conditions account for approximately 827,000 doctor visits each year, including an average of 83,000 emergency department room visits,” the CDC’s juvenile arthritis report said.

Overall women suffer a bit more from the various forms of arthritis. The 2005 state-level Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System prevalence estimates (the graphic seen atop this article) “found women reporting a higher prevalence of arthritis than men in every jurisdiction” across the country.

To read the CDC’s general arthritis news release, a news release focusing on juvenile arthritis, or the CDC’s full listing of U.S. state-by-state arthritis estimates, click on the links below:

Article References
Newest Estimates for Specific Forms of Arthritis, site accessed on 07/14/08

Childhood Arthritis Estimates, site accessed on 07/14/08

Arthritis – Data and Statistics – State Statistics, site accessed on 07/14/08