Are You Aware? Of Arthritis Awareness Month, That Is

Arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, polyarthritis, joint inflammation, joint pain

The merry month of May — it’s time for the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the first two legs of horse racing’s Triple Crown. It’s time for May Day. And of course we can’t forget Cinco de Mayo! But arthritis?

Yes, May is Arthritis Awareness Month in the United States, focusing on motivating people to get up, move, and raise funds for arthritis research, support, and advocacy.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, each May arthritis advocates observe National Arthritis Awareness Month with education, outreach, and arthritis walks to promote both fundraising and fitness. The Foundation estimates that 1 in 5 people older than 18 have doctor-diagnosed arthritis — a total of 50 million adults. And children aren’t immune from arthritis — 300,000 babies and children have arthritis or another rheumatic condition, meaning that 1 in 250 children have this disease. Arthritis is the number 1 cause of disability in the United States.

The Financial Cost of Arthritis

Arthritis, along with other nontraumatic joint disorders, is one of the five most costly conditions among adults aged 18 and older. Arthritis accounts for $156 billion a year in lost wages and medical expenses, including 44 million outpatient visits and about 1 million hospitalizations.

Arthritis — A Condition for All Ages

Many think of arthritis as affecting middle aged and older people, but two-thirds of arthritis sufferers are younger than age 65, including about 300,000 children. In fact, even infants as young as a year old can get systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the most common chronic rheumatologic disease in children.

Types of Arthritis

The Arthritis Foundation’s website lists more than 100 types of arthritis, ranging from adult-onset Still’s disease to Wegener’s granulomatosis. However, the types of arthritis most of us are most familiar with are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis — Wearing Out Bones and Joints

With osteoarthritis, the body’s shock absorbing cartilage, that slippery plastic-like material that covers the ends of bones, gradually breaks down and wears out. Osteoarthritis most often happens with age, but joint injuries or obesity also cause this condition. Weightbearing joints like the knees, hips, feet, and spine are most commonly affected, causing the affected joints to stiffen and hurt. The positive thing about osteoarthritis? It doesn’t cause you to feel sick and weak the way that other types of arthritis can.

Rheumatoid Arthritis — An Autoimmune Disease

With autoimmune diseases, the body’s own immune system attacks itself, especially cartilage and other connective tissue. This leads to inflammation, causing severe joint damage without treatment. About a fifth of people with rheumatoid arthritis also get rheumatoid nodules, which are lumps that form over joint areas receiving pressure, like knuckles and heels. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects multiple joints, causing swelling, fatigue, and weight loss. RA can affect other parts of the body, too, including eyes, lungs, and heart.

Reporting Arthritis Diagnoses With ICD-10

You’ll find your osteoarthritis choices in the Arthropathies section of the musculoskeletal and connective tissue disease chapter. M15 through M19 cover osteoarthritis conditions, starting with M15.0 (Primary generalized [osteo]arthritis). As always with ICD-10, you’ll want to choose the most specific code you can to match your clinician’s documentation. For example, for a patient who develops one-sided knee arthritis after a twisting injury to the right leg years before, you’d report M17.31 (Unilateral post-traumatic osteoarthritis, right knee).

To report rheumatoid arthritis codes, you’ll look for M05 through M14 in the Inflammatory Polyarthropathies section of the musculoskeletal chapter. Much as with the osteoarthritis codes, for rheumatoid arthritis you’ll need to report as specific a code as your clinician’s documentation allows. For example, adult-onset Still’s disease, which we mentioned earlier, is reported with M06.1. This condition is rare and of unknown cause, but it is thought to be triggered by a bacterial or viral infection. And if your provider documents that the patient has rheumatoid arthritis in more than one area, such as the right hand and the left knee, you’d report M06.09 (Rheumatoid arthritis without rheumatoid factor, multiple sites)

What About You?

When ICD-10 came in, orthopedics specialists saw the biggest change in their daily coding. How about you? Are you confident coding your ortho procedures in I-10? Let us know in the comment box below.

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Susan taught health information and healthcare documentation at the community college level for more than 20 years. She has a special love for medical language and terminology. She is passionate about ensuring accurate patient healthcare documentation through education. She has a master's degree in healthcare administration, is a certified healthcare documentation specialist, and serves as immediate past president for the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).

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