Understanding Arthritis
Thursday, October 3, 2019

Understanding Arthritis

If you have joint pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and lessening mobility, you may have arthritis. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have designated May as National Arthritis Month and they tell us that if you’re suffering from these symptoms, you’re in good company. Doctors have diagnosed 54 million Americans with this disease. By 2040 that number will grow to 78 million people.  

But how can you know if that shoulder, knee, elbow, hip, or other joint pain is really arthritis? Can the disease be prevented or stopped? Here’s what you need to know to fight back against the painful joint condition known as arthritis.

What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is caused by inflammation, which targets your body’s joints by destroying the cartilage connective tissue between bones. Cartilage serves as an important shock absorber to keep the bones from rubbing together when you move. Arthritis attacks these physical cushions, causing the joint to stiffen and become painful.

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and similar joint ailments but the two most common are:
  • Osteoarthritis/Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout

All forms of arthritis typically cause pain, which can be severe. There is no cure currently for arthritis, but there are treatments to manage these diseases and the pain that they cause.

How Do I Know if I Have Arthritis?
Ironically, many people may suspect they have arthritis but just think of it as a natural part of the aging process. They may not even talk with their doctor because they assume there’s nothing they can do about it. But the truth is that even children can get arthritis and no matter your age -- it is treatable.

The best way to find out if you have arthritis is to speak with your doctor. The disease can be tricky to diagnose because the symptoms can vary by person and by the type of arthritis that occurs. But your doctor can do a complete family and medical history, as well as a hands-on examination of the joint that’s causing pain.

Arthritis can occur in multiple areas, so it’s important to speak with your doctor about all of your symptoms. Your doctor will gently check the mobility of your joints and feel for heat, pain, and swelling.

The doctor may suspect arthritis, but also order imaging or lab tests to confirm the diagnosis. Unfortunately, you may even have more than one type of arthritis occurring in multiple joints.

Can I Prevent Arthritis?
The joints that bear weight, such as your spine, knees, feet, and hips, are typically the most common places where arthritis starts. Staying fit and active is an important way to prevent additional strain on the joints that carry you.

Your diet can help reduce inflammation in the body, as well. The Arthritis Foundation recommends avoiding processed foods high in saturated fats. They suggest following a Mediterranean diet of fish, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and beans to reduce inflammation.

How Can My Doctor Help?
Today there are some excellent medications available that can slow down the progression of the disease. The first step may be to lower the level of inflammation in the body. Your doctor may discuss your diet, exercise, or prescribe a corticosteroid or other anti-rheumatic medication to stop the progression of the disease. Obesity has been correlated to arthritis, so your doctor may talk about exercise along with at-home treatments like icing or heat to soothe the afflicted joint.

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to help you avoid permanent and potentially debilitating damage from arthritis. Arthritis is not inevitable; aging does not mean you will get the disease.

If you’re worried that joint pain may be a sign of something more serious, book an appointment with OrthoCincy today. We can help.