Arthritis, the leading cause of disability among Americans over 15 years of age, comprises more than 100 different diseases that affect areas in or around the joints. The most common type is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain and loss of movement due to deterioration in the cartilage covering the ends of bones in the joints. Types of arthritis that primarily affect women include lupus arthritis, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is the most serious and disabling type of arthritis.1

In 2006, more than 21 percent of adults in the United States reported that they had ever been diagnosed with arthritis. Arthritis was more common among women than men (24.4 versus 17.7 percent), and rates of arthritis increased dramatically with age for both sexes. Fewer than 10 percent of women aged 18–44 years had been diagnosed with arthritis, compared to 53.6 percent of women aged 65–74 years, and almost 55.2 percent of women aged 75 years and older.

In 2006, the rate of arthritis among women varied by race and ethnicity. Arthritis was most common among non-Hispanic White women (27.2 percent), followed by non-Hispanic Black women (23.5 percent). Asian and Hispanic women were least likely to report having ever been told that they have arthritis (11.5 and 14.3 percent, respectively).

1 Arthritis Foundation. Learn about arthritis. 2007., accessed 12/18/07.

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