Consistent aching pains and swelling in your knuckles or wrists? You may be dealing with arthritis. However, arthritis doesn’t play favorites when it comes to which joints it attacks, so if you’re feeling those same aching pains in your knees, elbows, ankles, or any other joint in the body, arthritis may be the culprit.
In fact, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis affecting almost 60 million Americans. That’s about one-fifth of the population, making it the leading cause of disability across the country.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis refers to inflammation or swelling of the synovial tissue and breakdown of the cartilage in your joints, often as a result of overuse or wear and tear. Essentially, the breakdown of your cartilage leads to bone rubbing against bone, which causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the affected area.
However, that inflammation is not always a result of consistent joint use. Instead, other forms of arthritis are the result of an attack on your joints by your immune system or some other substance found in your body. Therefore, if you begin to feel a consistent swelling or aching in your joints, it’s important to visit a physician or rheumatologist so they can accurately determine what type of arthritis you’re dealing with based on the symptoms you’re experiencing.
What Causes Arthritis?
The exact cause of arthritis is dependent upon the type of arthritis you or a loved one may be dealing with. Therefore, it’s always important to make sure you’ve had your specific form of arthritis properly diagnosed by a trained physician or doctor. In doing so, they’ll be able to help you determine the cause of your arthritis, tell you how to avoid it, and put you on the best path towards managing your symptoms.
Here are some of the most common types of arthritis:
· Osteoarthritis: The #1 form of arthritis and the most well-known, osteoarthritis happens as a result of wear and tear on the cartilage in your joints. Frequently known to affect more weight-bearing joints (such as the hips, knees, and ankles), this form of arthritis most commonly affects those who are older or obese.
· Rheumatoid Arthritis: Though no studies have conclusively determined the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, we do know that it is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system begins to attack the body due to some chemical imbalance or “confusion” caused by a virus or infection. This form of arthritis can make simple tasks like opening a bottle or walking down the steps feel nearly impossible because of the swelling that takes place in the joints.
· Psoriatic Arthritis: Often occurring in patients between 30 and 50 years old, psoriatic arthritis is most frequently recognized by itchy patches on skin and a burning sensation in joints upon use. Seeing a rheumatologist is the only way to ensure you get a proper diagnosis, as the symptoms surrounding this form are closely related to other skin and joint ailments.
Symptoms of Arthritis
With a running list of over 100 forms of arthritis, it can be difficult narrowing down which type you or a loved one may be dealing with. And though some symptoms are very specific to an individual type of arthritis, it’s important to understand the general symptoms of the ailment so you can determine if you should be seeing a specialist or not about the problem for an accurate diagnosis.
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of arthritis, no matter the particular form you may be dealing with:
· Swelling in the affected joint(s)
· Stiffness when moving
· An aching pain when using the affected joint(s)
· Redness or warmth in the affected area
· A decreased range of motion
Treatments for Arthritis
While there is no known cure for most forms of arthritis, the right treatment method can be a significant difference in your ability to handle everyday tasks. Therefore, getting a correct diagnosis is key to managing the symptoms that come with your specific form of arthritis.
To accurately diagnose you, your physician will likely use X-ray imaging. Sometimes additional imaging such as a Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), or Ultrasound may also be used.
After determining your arthritic symptoms and establishing a diagnosis, your physician will work with you to come up with a treatment plan that suits your needs and lifestyle. There are three primary types of treatment used for patients with arthritis:
1. Physical Therapy: Often used as the first treatment for anyone dealing with arthritis, physical therapy involves the training and healthy exercise of worn-down joints with a trained expert in joint studies. These exercises help strengthen the muscles associated with each joint and improve the range of motion in the affected joint for the patient.
2. Medications: Depending on the severity of arthritis, your doctor may recommend the use of medication to help manage your pain and symptoms. Some forms of medication include disease-modifying drugs, anti-inflammatories, and steroids. Talk to a specialist to determine the correct form of medicine for you
3. Surgery: In cases when chronic forms of arthritis have begun to dictate aspects of a patient’s life, surgical intervention may be considered. The three most common forms of surgery for those with arthritis are joint repair, joint replacement, and joint fusion. Ask your doctor which surgery is best suited for your circumstance.
Get a proper diagnosis for arthritis, today:
No matter what pains, aches, or inflammation you may be dealing with, the first step to recovery always starts with a trip to your doctor. There, your physician can refer you to a specialist who will be able to accurately diagnose your form of arthritis and set you up with a treatment plan.
For the best sports medicine care in the region, consider consulting with an orthopaedic specialist at Rothman Orthopaedics. Our team of physicians and doctors are categorically trained to handle every type of injury related to the bones, tissue, and joints. Make an appointment with us by web, or give us a call at 1-800-321-9999.