Despite that fact that 43 million Americans suffer from arthritis, it still remains a bit of a mystery. Myths abound, such as "arthritis affects only old people," or, "you can't play sports with arthritis." If you've been diagnosed with arthritis, separating fact from fiction brings some reassurance and a lot less anxiety.  Read on to find out the truth behind six common myths.

Myth #1: Arthritis is one disease.

Fact: Arthritis refers to over 100 conditions. Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative condition that can damage joint cartilage and bone, and cause pain, stiffness and loss of function. It's often caused by mechanical problems, injury, or other stresses.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects nearly 1.3 million people, and fortunately, is on the decline, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms include inflammation of the joint lining, pain, swelling, stiffness, fever, loss of function, and fatigue.

Other diseases that fall under the arthritis umbrella include fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondilytis, and gout. Milder conditions such as tendonitis and bursitis are also included.

Myth #2: Arthritis affects only old people.

Fact: This is perhaps the most common misconception about arthritis. In reality, arthritis knows no age limits; even babies can get certain forms of the condition and so can children or people in their 20s. However, some conditions can seem like arthritis so it's important to have it properly diagnosed by a doctor.

Myth #3: You can't be active with arthritis.

Fact: Contrary to popular belief it's extremely important to be active when you have arthritis. The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center reports that staying active is essential to physical and mental health for people with arthritis. It keeps muscles strong, decreases bone loss, and alleviates swelling and pain.

Some of the best activities for arthritis include stretching, biking, swimming, resistance training, tai chi and yoga. High-impact activities should be avoided.

Myth #4: There's not much you can do about arthritis pain.

Fact: These days people with arthritis aren't limited to using only acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen for pain relief. A wide range of drugs such as biologics, disease-modifiying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), Cox-2 inhibitors, and others can inhibit the causes of inflammation and pain, and slow the progress of arthritis.

Also, many natural remedies can help you cope with symptoms. These include herbs such as ginger, curcumin, or holistic therapies such as tai chi or meditation. In most cases doctors start your therapy early and take a multi-treatment approach in order to achieve the best results.

Myth #5: If you have rheumatoid arthritis you'll eventually be crippled or disfigured.

Fact: This outcome was very likely 20 to 30 years ago. These days, however, the Merck Manual indicates that only one in 10 people are likely to become severely disabled. Drugs such as biologics and DMARDs hinder joint destruction and disfiguration. These drugs include abatcept (brand name Orencia), etanercept (Enbrel), and methotrexate (Trexall).

Enbrel, for instance, blocks a chemical called tumor necrosis factor, or TNF, and reduces joint inflammation. Orencia is often prescribed for moderate and severe arthritis when other biologics aren't effective. This drug inhibits signals that activate T-cells in the immune system, which contribute to RA development.

Myth #6: As you get older osteoarthritis is inevitable.

Truth: Not necessarily so. There are certain risk factors for osteoarthritis including diet, lifestyle, injuries, and obesity. Women are more likely to get osteoarthritis than men. While you can't do much about your sex, you can lower other risk factors.

Several studies published in journals such as Arthritis & Rheumatism indicate that coffee and alcohol can increase arthritis risk. Eliminate or reduce these in your diet. Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits, veggies, nuts and fish oils. Also, exercise strengthens and stabilizes your muscles and joints, and helps you avoid injury. Another benefit of physical activity and balanced meals is weight loss, which, if you're overweight or obese, takes stress off your joints.