updated 1/11/2007 10:14:08 PM ET 2007-01-12T03:14:08

The nation’s costs for arthritis and related conditions rose to $128 billion in 2003, and the tab will continue to grow as the U.S. population gets older and heavier, the government said Thursday.

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The 2003 costs, the latest data available, included $80.8 billion in direct costs such as medical expenses and $47 billion in indirect costs such as lost wages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The total was a 58 percent increase over the 1997 figure of $86.2 billion cost, largely because government surveys identified 9 million more cases of arthritis or related conditions, the CDC said.

The CDC estimated that 46.1 million people were treated for arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in 2003, and 29.5 million of them lost earnings. The government estimates 8 million more people will suffer from arthritis between 2005 and 2015.

The government recommended lowering costs with widespread use of self-management programs, which teach patients how to manage their pain and continue working with the condition.

California had the largest costs from arthritis at $12.1 billion, followed by $8.7 billion in New York and Utah, and $7.6 billion in Florida.

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