March does not only symbolize the beginning of spring, it signifies Arthritis Awareness Month, a disease which millions of Americans battle.
Arthritis is defined as a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases and conditions that can affect people of all races, genders and ages, including college students.
To help raise awareness through the Murray State community, Alpha Omicron Pi hosts two philanthropy events each year, one in the fall and one in the spring, to raise funds and awareness to arthritis.
Amanda Winchester, president of AOPi said it is important to raise awareness and take away the stigma associated with arthritis.
“Most people think only older people get arthritis, but that is not true,” she said. “Arthritis affects mostly women, and as a group of women, we find it really special to be able to raise awareness to fight this disease.”
AOPi hosted a philanthropy event Saturday called Strikeout Arthritis to help raise funds.
This year, a softball tournament was hosted. The strikeout philanthropy is usually a bowling event, but due to bowling alley renovations, it was changed.
“Arthritis is one of those diseases that if you do not have it you do not think about it,” Winchester said. “It is important for people to know it affects many people and can happen to anyone.”
According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million Americans suffer from some type of arthritis. This is a disease that affects not just the elderly, with two-thirds of people with arthritis being under 65 years old.
Judy Lyle, interim associate director of Health Services, said there have been a number of students on campus diagnosed with arthritis, and though they may look normal, they can be in a great deal of pain.
“Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means your body is literally attacking itself,” Lyle said.
Each year, arthritis is responsible for more than 44 million outpatient hospital visits and 992,100 hospitalizations.
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., according to the Arthritis Foundation. Although there are many different conditions and types of arthritis, there are three main types.
The first, osteoarthritis, is the most common. It is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartridge. Risk factors include obesity, history of and age.
The second type is rheumatoid arthritis, which is a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membrane lining the joints, which causes pain, joint stiffness, swelling and severe joint damage.
The third most common type of arthritis is juvenile arthritis.
This term is used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that develop in people under 16 years of age.
More than 300,000 people have juvenile arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are ways to manage it.
Different types of medicines are available, but Lyle said they do not always work for everyone.
She said getting enough rest, keeping stress levels down and exercising are the best ways to deal with arthritis.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there is evidence that indicates that endurance and resistance types of exercise can provide benefits to people with arthritis.
By 2030, it is estimated that more than 67 million people will have arthritis if the statistics continue to grow at the rate they are at.
Said Lyle: “With any health or wellness issue, we need to make people as aware as possible.”
Story by Rebecca Walter, Staff writer