What is arthritis?
Arthritis refers to more than 100 diseases that cause pain, stiffness and
swelling from the inflammation of a joint or the area around a joint.
It is the No. 1 cause of chronic disability in the United States, affecting
nearly 40 million people. Because there are so many different forms of
arthritis, the causes are likely to vary. Scientists are examining how
genetics, lifestyles and other factors affect the development of arthritis.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most-common type of arthritis. It is a non-inflammatory
degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of cartilage
in one or more joints. The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown. About
21 million Americans, usually middle-aged and older, have osteoarthritis.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia, the second most-common type of arthritis, causes pain in
muscles or joints with no signs of infection. It often is misdiagnosed
as chronic fatigue syndrome. About 3.7 million Americans have fibromyalgia;
70 percent to 90 percent are women 20 to 50 years old.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid and some of other types of arthritis affect the synovium, a
membrane that lines a joint and seals it into a joint. When it becomes
inflamed, chemicals that thicken the synovium and damage cartilage and
bone are released. Symptoms are pain and swelling.
Hip Cartilage & Arthritis
In a healthy hip, cartilage cushions the area surrounding the hip ball
and socket to allow easy movement without pain. In an unhealthy hip, cartilage
is damaged or worn away, causing pain from bones rubbing and grinding together.
Knee Cartilage & Arthritis
In a healthy knee, cartilage protects and cushions bone surfaces that come
together at the joint, allowing bones to move without friction. In an
unhealthy knee, cartilage is damaged or worn away, causing pain from bones
Symptoms of Arthritis
Pain from arthritis can be continuous or it may come and go. It may occur
after activity or exercise, but it also may happen if you have been resting.
Pain may be concentrated in one spot or you may feel it all over your
body. Joints may feel stiff and difficult to move. Daily chores such as
climbing stairs and opening cans may become a challenge. You may notice
that pain is more severe during certain times of the day or after performing
Some kinds of arthritis cause swelling or inflammation. The skin over the
joint may appear swollen and red, and feel hot when touched. Arthritis
also may cause fatigue.
How Can I Know if I Have Arthritis?
Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to slowing or preventing joint
damage. Only a physician can determine if you have arthritis and what
type it is. Diagnosis is based on the overall pattern of symptoms, medical
history, physical examination, X-rays and laboratory tests.
Arthritis Treatment Options
Because there are different types of arthritis, there are different symptoms
and treatments. Care for arthritis often involves more than one type of
treatment, and treatment may vary over time. Ask your physician about
the best treatment options for you.
Exercise – Regular exercise is important because it keeps your body moving
and flexible. It helps lessen pain, reduce fatigue and increase movement,
and it helps you look and feel better.
Heat or cold – Applying heat or cold over joints may provide short-term relief
from pain and stiffness.
Joint protection – Protect joints by learning to use them in ways that avoid excess
stress. Avoid using sore and weak joints. Use larger joints when carrying
heavy items (unless larger joints are sore). Walking with an assistive
device such as a cane is helpful. Controlling your weight helps ease the
pain by reducing stress on your joints.
Medicine – Many prescription and over-the-counter medicines are used to treat
arthritis. Common medicines are anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin-free
pain relievers, corticosteroids, disease modifiers and sleep aids.
Pacing activities – Pacing helps protect your joints by alternating periods of activity
with periods of rest so your joints don’t tire from the stress of
Self-help skills – You can learn ways to manage how arthritis affects you emotionally
by doing mental exercises, talking about your feelings with family members
and friends, and joining a local arthritis support group.
Surgery – Most people with arthritis will not need surgery. But it may be
effective in eliminating pain when other treatment methods have failed.
The Arthritis Foundation and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Websites
contain many articles and patient education information that you may find
helpful. Have more questions about your arthritis and our treatment capabilities?
Call us today.