Understanding Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common conditions globally. In reality, the term arthritis is used to refer to a wide range of joint pains and diseases. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and it affects people of all ages and ethnicities.

Most commonly, arthritis reduces mobility, causes chronic pain, swelling, and stiffness. The symptoms can range from mild to painful. There are cases of extreme arthritis that results in chronic pains that make everyday tasks difficult. In rarer cases, arthritis can even affect the heart, lungs, and kidneys, as well as the joints.

According to a 2014 study published in the “Rheumatology” journal, the joint tissue of patients with arthritis contains unusually high levels of CB2 receptors, which are specifically designed to interact with CBD. The use of cannabidiol has shown some signs of neutralizing joint inflammation by activating the endocannabinoid system.

How Many People Suffer From Arthritis

According to data obtained by the CDC, between 2013 and 2015, an estimated 54.4 million adults in the United States (22.7% of the population) had some form of arthritis. The number of patients is expected to rise to 78 million by 2040.

The most common type of the disease is osteoarthritis, followed by gout, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. As people age, the risk of developing arthritis increases, especially among women.

More specifically:

  • Of persons ages 18–44, 7% ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis
  • Of persons ages 45–64, 29.3% ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis
  • Of persons ages 65 or older, 49.6% ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis
  • 26% of women and 19% men ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis

Arthritis seems to be prevalent among all ethnic groups. The CDC reports that between 2013-2015:

  • 4.4 million Hispanic adults ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis
  • 41.3 million Non-Hispanic Whites ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis
  • 6 million Non-Hispanic Blacks ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis
  • 1.5 million Non-Hispanic Asians ever reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis

Arthritis is a leading cause of work disability. In the USA alone, 1 in 25 adults between 18-64 years old reported work limitations attributed to arthritis.

Types of Arthritis

The term arthritis is used to describe more than 100 different conditions. However, some are much more prevalent than others. Most people who suffer from arthritis have one of the following conditions:

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent type of arthritis, and occurs when the cartilage that cushions the surface where the joints meet wears off. When that happens, bones rub together, causing pain and swelling. If left untreated, this condition can become chronic. In extreme cases, joint replacement surgery might be necessary.

Inflammatory Arthritis (Rheumatoid, Psoriatic)

Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are both examples of inflammatory arthritis, caused by a malfunction of the immune system that mistakenly attacks the joints. Scientists believe that the development of rheumatoid arthritis is the result of genetics and environmental factors.

Infectious Arthritis

Joint inflammation can be triggered by external factors such as bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Usually, infectious arthritis can be treated with medication, but it can also become chronic.

Metabolic Arthritis

Metabolic arthritis is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body that forms crystals in the joints, causing extreme pain and disability.

Arthritis is used to describe a collection of conditions, and so there is no single cause for all types of arthritis. Possible causes vary by type and include:

  • Injuries
  • Genetics
  • Infection
  • Immune System Dysfunction
  • Abnormal Metabolism

Usually, it is a combination of these factors, although genetic predisposition can play a major role in the development of arthritic conditions.

Some types of arthritis (gout) are closely connected to the nutritional choices of the patients, as there are certain foods that increase inflammation.

Symptoms of Arthritis

Symptoms of arthritis may differ depending on the type of condition that a patient has:

  • Osteoarthritis: Symptoms may include joint pain and progressive stiffness
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms may include swelling, inflammation, and stiffness in various parts of the body.
  • Infectious Arthritis: Symptoms of infectious arthritis are similar to a regular infection, with chills, fever, and joint inflammation.

How is Arthritis Diagnosed

In order to diagnose arthritis, doctors will first consider the symptoms presented by the patient, perform a physical exam, and proceed with blood tests and X-ray scans. This procedure is necessary to help distinguish which type of arthritis the patient suffers from.

How Harmful Is Arthritis

Arthritic conditions are rarely terminal. In extreme cases they can become chronic, meaning that patients will have to live with the condition for the rest of their lives. However, complications linked with some types of arthritis can become fatal. Rheumatoid arthritis has been associated with reduced lifespan, as it can play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.

Some of the most serious conditions that have been linked with rheumatoid arthritis are:

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Serious Infections
  • Gastrointestinal Perforation

How Is Arthritis Treated

Arthritis treatment is focused on the improvement of the life quality of the patients. It usually includes a mixture of rest, physiotherapy, exercise, medications, and, in extreme cases, surgery.

The type of arthritis determines the course of treatment that the doctor will follow. For example, in patients with osteoarthritis, the focus is to reduce pain and stiffness. Although until recently medicine was unable to stop the disease from developing further, newer treatments have been able to halt the progression of arthritis damage.

How Does CBD Help Treat Arthritis

The human endocannabinoid system might have a lot of potential for scientists and researchers of arthritis. According to a 2014 study published in the “Rheumatology” journal, the joint tissue of patients with arthritis contains unusually high levels of CB2 receptors, which are specifically designed to interact with CBD. The use of cannabidiol has shown some signs of neutralizing joint inflammation by activating the endocannabinoid system.

In 2015, a Canadian professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at Dalhousie University named Dr. Jason McDougall launched a study to determine whether medical marijuana could play a role in repairing arthritic joints and help patients relieve pain, not just alleviate the symptoms. His initiative is backed by the Arthritis Society, which awarded a grant to the professor.

When asked about his project in an interview, McDougall said:

“[The nerves are like] wires that have been stripped of their coating. They’re all bare, they’re all raw and responsible for feeling a lot of pain. What we hypothesize is that by locally administering these cannabis-like molecules to those nerves, we’d actually be able to repair them and reduce the pain of arthritis.”

His research is limited to non-psychoactive cannabinoids, such as CBD.

Early findings show that cannabis compounds can indeed attach themselves to cannabinoid receptors and regulate pain levels in the joints.

The study’s findings suggested that cannabis molecules can attach themselves to nerve receptors and control the firing of pain signals in the joint.

With McDougall’s research progressing, the data regarding the beneficial effects of CBD on people with arthritis is piling up.

Interest in medical cannabis as a treatment for arthritis is not new, as studies about cannabinoids and arthritis have been published as early as June 2000. In this paper, scientists artificially induced arthritic symptoms in mice and then treated them with CBD, which showed signs of halting the development of the disease.

In a recent survey conducted on behalf of HelloMD by Brightfield Group, 2,400 users were asked about the use of medicinal CBD. The results were overwhelmingly positive, with 42% of those surveyed saying that they had given up pharmaceuticals, and continue treatment exclusively by CBD.

Over 25% of those asked reported that they are using CBD for arthritic conditions and 11% of them reported that that CBD was “extremely effective” in treating their arthritis. The general consensus among users was that it is better to use CBD along with “traditional” medications.

Studies on CBD and Arthritis

Additional Sources of Information

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The research and talent that went into this article and infographic was made possible by a grant from High Country Group, LLC. Visit High Country’s CBD website for top-quality CBD products.

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The statements in this document have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before beginning any treatment regimen.

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