Arthritis is a painful condition that affects millions of people worldwide and can have a serious impact on the quality of life of sufferers.
Fortunately, there are options available that can help you to treat and manage your pain, and live a life as close to normal as possible – we have put together everything you need to know to choose the best treatment plan for your condition.
Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on the cartilage cushion between the bones in the joint.
This damage leads to bone rubbing against bone, causing pain and stiffness. The symptoms usually start gradually and worsen over time.
There are two main treatments for arthritis: medication and surgery. Medication can relieve some of the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis, but it won’t cure the disease. Surgery can remove damaged tissue or replace it with artificial material.
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a group of conditions that cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of movement in one or more joints. It’s not just an old person’s problem – anyone can get arthritis, including children.
There are many different forms of arthritis. Some affect only one part of the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, while others spread throughout the whole body, like gout. Other types include juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia.
As we can see, there are several types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form.
OA causes inflammation and pain in joints, especially those located at the ends of bones.
The main symptom of arthritis is pain, and when you first experience this pain, it can be hard to pinpoint where exactly it’s coming from.
You might notice it when moving your fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, or toes, or simply find that you are feeling achier than usual.
If you suspect that you have any symptoms of arthritis, it is important to visit your doctor as soon as you can – they will be able to offer advice and run tests to confirm your diagnosis.
What Are The Causes of Arthritis?
The exact cause of most types of arthritis is unknown. However, research suggests that genetics play a role in determining who gets arthritis.
Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise.
Arthritis usually develops after age 30, although it can develop at any time during life. In fact, more than half of all adults over 60 years old have some form of arthritis.
Types of Arthritis
There are a number of types of arthritis, and the most common include:
Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage breaks down in one or more joints. The wear and tear of everyday life cause the bones to rub together, causing pain and stiffness. This kind of arthritis usually affects older adults.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the synovial membrane, the lining inside the joints. As a result, fluid collects under the skin and makes the joints swell. This leads to pain, tenderness, and loss of movement. People with this type of arthritis may develop deformities in their hands and feet.
Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid builds up in the body because it’s not broken down properly.
When the body has too much uric acid, crystals form in the joints. These crystals irritate the tissues, causing painful red spots to appear on the bottom of the foot, ankle, knee, elbow, wrist, hand, and shoulder.
How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your medical history, lifestyle factors, and other symptoms that could indicate you have arthritis.
They may also perform a physical examination, which involves looking at your joints and checking how well you move them.
Your doctor may also order blood tests to rule out other diseases that could mimic arthritis.
Once your doctor has diagnosed you with arthritis, they will give you advice on what to do next.
Depending on the type of arthritis you have, they may recommend certain medications or exercises.
For example, if you have osteoarthritis, they may suggest taking anti-inflammatory drugs or using heat packs to ease the pain.
If you think you have been misdiagnosed, it is worth getting another opinion. A second opinion from a specialist who specializes in rheumatology is often very helpful, as these are professionals with a strong background in arthritis and similar conditions.
Treatment Options for Arthritis
Fortunately, there are a number of options that can allow your arthritis to be treated, and these include:
Medications can provide relief from the symptoms of arthritis, but cannot cure the disease. There are three main categories of arthritis medications: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs reduce the amount of inflammation in the joints by blocking chemicals called prostaglandins. Common examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen (Aleve), diclofenac (Cataflam), and ketoprofen (Orudis KT).
Corticosteroids work by reducing swelling and relieving pain. Examples of corticosteroids include prednisone (Deltasone) and methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol).
- Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
These drugs slow down the progression of the disease and help prevent further damage. Examples of DMARDs include methotrexate (Rheumatrex), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), leflunomide (Arava), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), and gold salts.
Regular exercise helps keep joints flexible and reduces stress on the muscles around the joints.
It also improves circulation, which can help relieve some of the pain associated with arthritis. Exercise programs vary depending on your condition, so talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
There are many alternative treatments available for people with arthritis. Some of these include acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy, yoga, and herbal remedies. Talk to your doctor about whether these therapies would be suitable for you.
Arthritis can be a painful and debilitating condition, but all is not lost – there are a number of options available for treatments and care plans, and these can help to reduce your pain and boost your overall quality of life.