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Currently about 15.5% of Americans suffer from some form of arthritis, including nearly half of the population 65 years and older. Arthritis is more common in women, in people living in rural areas and in those with lower income and education levels, although researchers do not know why. Rates of the disease are similar for whites and blacks, but are lower among Hispanics and Asians.

Arthritis is characterized by pain, stiffness and sometimes swelling in and around the joints. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that those who have such symptoms for more than two weeks should see a doctor.

The Arthritis Foundation and the physicians at the Bone and Joint Institute recommend that arthritis patients stay active, including regular range-of-motion, strengthening and endurance exercises. Some patients gain limited relief by applying heat or cold to the joint. Surgery is used when other approaches have failed. Researchers have also found that providing self-help courses and skills for patients to manage their own illness can reduce the pain and suffering of arthritis. But the disease still takes an enormous toll. Arthritis is serious, and it has an enormous impact on those who have it. It also has an enormous impact on those who don't have it.