If you experience a painful, burning sensation or stiffness and swelling in your joints, you may have arthritis. You are not alone. Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that is a leading cause of infirmary, mobility challenges and disability for many. It affects over 50 million people across the country and is not specific to seniors.
Arthritis can develop suddenly or gradually at any age, though seniors and individuals with autoimmune conditions are among the most affected groups. Arthritis is a degenerative bone condition that gradually destroys the cartilage or connective tissue between bones and joints. Normally, the connective tissue in between the bones decreases with age. But in individuals with arthritis, this process happens earlier and at a faster rate.
The process can become so advanced that it causes bones to rub together, creating friction and in some cases, knocking or clicking sounds. The pain and heat sensations that sufferers experience are caused by inflammation that can be triggered by overactivity, repetitive movements, bone spurs, certain foods, beverages, tobacco and nicotine products, illnesses, infections, injuries, stress, and weather changes.
Many people experience arthritis symptoms differently. However, the following signs are common in arthritis sufferers:
- Joint redness
- Swelling joints
- Tenderness and pain
- Inability to place full body weight on lower joints
- Mobility problems
- Reduced range of motion
- Joints that are warm or hot to the touch
- Abnormal blood count
Arthritis is progressive, meaning it does get worse over time without proper treatment. Joint deformities and disabilities can occur.
Different Kinds of Arthritis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 100 types of arthritis, though osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, and psoriatic are the most commonly diagnosed. Regardless of the type, advanced age and weight are the most common factors in severe cases. As previously stated, infants, children, and adults can develop arthritis. Risk factors vary; so does the average age of onset.
Rheumatoid (RA) occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy joint tissue, thus destroying it. The condition is an autoimmune disorder that can cause targeted (joint-specific) or widespread (body) inflammation. Symptoms primarily include pain, swelling, and stiffness, and may come and go without warning or become chronic.
Osteoarthritis develops from the constant wear and tear of moving the body. Also known as a wear-and-tear disease, osteoarthritis is often caused by aging and trauma. Joint aches and stiffness are often the first symptoms to develop. The stiffness often gets better with movement for some individuals.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It typically affects joints symmetrically on both sides of the body, though it’s not uncommon for asymmetrical symptoms to occur. Women who are over the age of 45 and men under the age of 45 have the highest risk of developing this condition. Anyone with previous injuries also has an elevated risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) is another autoimmune form of arthritis that can affect different areas of the body without warning. Yet, unlike many others, its primary symptoms include more than pain, stiffness, and warmth in the joint. It also affects the skin, nails, and spine. Symptoms often develop in an unpredictable order causing the condition to mimic other inflammatory ailments.
Though there are many kinds of arthritis, some forms take longer to diagnose due to limited diagnostic options. Currently, there are no predefined or standard blood diagnostic criteria for many types of arthritis.
Treatments for Arthritis
There is no cure for arthritis. But some medications and treatments can help slow down disease activity and manage the symptoms. Treatment options range from conservative to surgical and depend on the type of arthritis present.
Medicine for arthritis includes store-bought and prescription options. Those who have mild symptoms often benefit from using acetaminophen, naproxen sodium, and ibuprofen for pain management. There are also topical, narcotics, steroids and other types of medications for arthritis symptom relief.
Physical therapy can help relieve joint stiffness and pain. It is also beneficial for those looking to improve their range of motion and mobility with or without medication or surgery. Treatment incorporates exercises, assistive devices, etc. to help strengthen the muscles in the affected joints and improve balance.
PRP Therapy is a biologic treatment that is derived from the patient’s blood. It is highly effective at treating osteoarthritis. PRP therapy is administered as a series of injections that alters the immune system’s function to suppress arthritis symptoms and slow down the disease’s progression.
Lifestyle adjustments, dietary changes, and weight management can also help make living with arthritis more manageable. Many people living with arthritis find their symptoms are less disruptive to their daily activities after making improvements to their diets and lifestyle choices.
Arthroscopy and Joint Replacement are good options for patients with severe arthritis of the knee and certain joints. It is done to remove damaged portions of the cartilage, bone, and connective tissues that have been destroyed or compromised by arthritis, trauma, or injury. The procedures often increase patients’ range of motion while alleviating pain.
These surgeries may be right for people who are unable to manage their condition with lifestyle changes, exercise or diet. It is also recommended for those who have arthritis that fails to respond favorably to medication.
Rheumatologist vs. Orthopedic Specialists
Your first thought may be to go to a general physician or rest and avoid using your limbs when the pain, stiffness, and discomfort from arthritis flares up. However, regular physicians do not have the many years of practice or specialized training that orthopedic specialists have. Also, it is standard practice for patients to see rheumatologists for treatment in many areas. While rheumatologists are essential for some types of arthritis care, their primary focus is on inflammatory autoimmune disorders.
The difference between rheumatologists and orthopedics is the type of care they provide. Orthopedic surgeons provide a wide variety of treatments that include surgery to help address joint symptoms from arthritis causes to help reduce pain and improve mobility. Rheumatologists, however, focus on symptom management.
Should You See an Orthopedic Specialist for Arthritis?
Seeing an orthopedic specialist may be a good idea when your symptoms become uncomfortable or affect your ability to do your regular activities.
After carefully reviewing your symptoms, medical history, and concerns, an orthopedic specialist will perform a physical examination and arrange for diagnostic testing to determine the cause of your pain and stiffness. Even patients with a current arthritis diagnosis can benefit from seeing an orthopedic specialist for symptom and disease management and treatments.
Ready to Learn More?
Memorial Hospital of Gardena is committed to giving patients the best in advanced care so they can remain healthy, happy, and active. Our professional yet compassionate orthopedic specialists are experienced in providing exceptional care for all musculoskeletal disorders.
To learn more about treatment options for arthritis and other bone, joint, and mobility issues, please contact the orthopedics department at Memorial Hospital of Gardena. Call (310) 532-4200 to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic experts today!