Arthritis is much more than a disease plaguing the elderly; it’s the number one cause of disability in the U.S. and impacts more than 50 million Americans, including 300,000 children.

It’s wise to learn about this common but painful disease. Here are a few misconceptions to put to rest:

1. Only older people get arthritis

While the risk of arthritis increases as you age — half of people 65 and older have arthritis — the truth is people of all ages get arthritis including children and young adults. In fact, 300,000 infants, children and teens live with various types of juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic conditions.

2. Arthritis can’t be prevented

You can’t completely prevent arthritis but you can reduce your risk or delay the onset of some forms of the disease. There are more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions and you cannot do anything about some risk factors, such as being female. However, you can maintain a healthy weight, stay physically active, avoid or stop smoking, wear protective gear during sports, avoid overuse or strain and practice good body mechanics during activities to decrease the possibility of other risk factors.

3. Once diagnosed with arthritis, there isn’t much you can do about it

While there isn’t a cure for arthritis yet, there are some very effective medications for certain types (that’s why getting an early diagnosis is essential). In addition, lifestyle modifications and self-care can help tremendously. Smart habits include losing weight, staying active, balancing activity with rest, eating a diet rich in nutrients and practicing a healthy sleep routine.

4. When joint symptoms start, you should wait to see if they go away

Early diagnosis and treatment can save more than joints. Some types of arthritis can cause damage to the heart and other organs. It’s important to know which type of arthritis you have, because medical care varies and getting early treatment can be the key to preventing permanent joint and organ damage. So, if you have joint pain, make an appointment with your primary care physician and explain all of your symptoms, share your family medical history and provide details of any joint injuries you may have incurred.