- What is arthritis?
- What’s it like to have arthritis?
- Can I prevent arthritis?
- How is arthritis treated?
When it comes to joint pain and stiffness, arthritis is a commonly cited condition that leads to disability and mobility issues for many. But is there a way to prevent arthritis?
Osteoarthritis in particular is a widespread problem that affects working-age adults just as much as those who have retired. Because of the pain arthritis causes, it can drastically limit your quality of life on the days when it flares up.
This article will help you understand arthritis and the treatments that are available.
What Is Arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints that causes tenderness and swelling. Inside the joint, cartilage is the slippery tough tissue that covers the end of our bones and keeps two connected bones from grinding together. As people age, this cartilage wears away, causing the joint to get stiff and mobility to decline.
As you might imagine, arthritis can cause significant difficulties as it begins to chew away at these important shock absorbers in various joints around the body.
What’s It Like to Have Arthritis?
When you have arthritis, everyday chores can be difficult. The first sign of arthritis is usually pain in the form of a dull or burning sensation. Pain can flare if you’ve used the joint frequently that day. Gardening, running, lifting, and other repetitive motions cause continual wear and tear on your joints, leading to that soreness.
As the joints inflame, they may swell from a build-up of synovial fluid which could in turn make it painful to move around or use that joint normally.
Depending on the type of arthritis you have, some of the symptoms of the condition include:
- Deep joint pain
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Fatigue and weight loss
- Limited range of motion
- Morning stiffness
- Problems gripping things
There are more than 100 types of arthritis. Let’s go over some of the most pervasive ones.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It usually affects the large weight-bearing joints such as the:
- Lower back
A common symptom of osteoarthritis is to wake up stiff, requiring a little exercise to limber up and feel like you are able to move freely again.
You can also experience joint stiffness in the morning with another type of arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis (RA), where the body’s own immune system attacks the capsule and lining of the joint. RA is an autoimmune disease, and it can grow so serious it affects the entire body. The disease is symmetrical in nature, meaning, if you’re afflicted with the disease on one side of your body the other side will also become infected.
RA can flare up or die away, and it can also have an impact on several organs in the body. While the symptoms of RA are also joint inflammation and pain you may also experience chest pain, fever, or shortness of breath. The progression of RA can be serious because the disease can eventually destroy both bone and the cartilage within the affected joint.
Psoriatic arthritis is another type of autoimmune condition that causes your body to attack itself. If you have psoriatic arthritis, you may experience eye redness, rashes, and pain, and nail changes. The fingers can swell and become sausage-like.
You can also experience arthritis as gout. Strangely, gout attacks the big toe joint primarily, but it can also go after the knees or ankles. Gout is characterized with intense flares of pain, which can be debilitating.
Can I Prevent Arthritis?
You can’t really prevent or cure arthritis, unfortunately. There are a few things you can do to lower your risk of getting arthritis. For example, you can do these things to keep your joints a little healthier:
- Avoid injury to your joints, which can lead to arthritis over time
- Eat fish or take Omega-3 supplements
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day to keep your blood flowing and your joints limber
- Keep your blood sugar under control because high blood sugar can make your joints more sensitive to stress
- Stay at a manageable, healthy weight to reduce the stress on your joints
- Stop smoking, which stresses the tissues in the body
- Stretch to improve your range of motion and stay mobile
- Visit your primary care doctor to get on a preventative, proactive health plan
Eating healthy is an important way to affect an arthritis flare-up. A vegan diet is one that has been shown to help prevent arthritis symptoms. Vegans avoid dairy, meat, cheese, or other animal products. Keep in mind vegans can also eat foods that are bad for them, such as highly processed meals or French fries. However, a plant-based diet should give you lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The nutrients you receive from these foods may help you fight arthritis symptoms. This also contributes to better gut health, which studies show correlates with a reduction in rheumatic arthritis symptoms.
Keep in mind, there are also some risk factors that ultimately lead to arthritis that can’t be changed, such as your family history or simply growing older.
How Is Arthritis Treated?
The goal of arthritis treatment is to manage symptoms and improve mobility. Typically, the doctor may focus on over-the-counter remedies, like acetaminophen, to ease pain as a first step.
For more intense pain, the doctor may prescribe pain relievers. Since opioids such as tramadol are habit-forming, opting for a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (also called an NSAID) to relieve pain and reduce inflammation may be a good option. There are creams and ointments available as well to rub on the skin over the afflicted joint that may help.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, there are disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which stop your immune system from attacking the joints. Corticosteroids can also be effective for osteoarthritis and can even be injected directly into the problem joint or taken orally. These medications can suppress the immune system response, lessen pain, and reduce inflammation.
Physical therapy may also be able to help your arthritis. Exercises to strengthen muscles and improve your range of motion can help take the pressure off the joint and alleviate pain. A brace may also be effective.
If your arthritis gets to the point where none of these non-invasive approaches work, surgery may be an option. Doctors can go in and repair the joint by smoothing away the arthritis and returning the joint to better function. You may even have joint replacement surgery which can eliminate the damage and replace the joint with a prosthetic. This is typically done on the knees and hips.
The team at AMA Medical Group is standing by to help you live your best life. Regular primary care is one of the best things you can do for your health, and we are ready to help you manage pain and other symptoms related to arthritis. Let’s work together to create a lifestyle plan that will reduce the impact of your flare-ups.